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- Bei Bei the giant panda, one of the most popular animals at the Smithsonian National Zoo, is flying to China on Tuesday to enter a breeding program.
- While Bei Bei was born in the US, all giant pandas born in captivity are the property of China, and must be returned to their native country by the age of 4.
- Bei Bei is flying direct from Virginia to Chengdu, China, on a private FedEx cargo plane loaded with 66 pounds of bamboo.
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The Smithsonian National Zoo lost one of its most popular animals on Tuesday: Bei Bei, the four-year-old giant panda.
Though Bei Bei was born at the National Zoo, he is property of the Chinese government, and all baby pandas born in captivity must return by the age of four in order to enter a breeding program in China to strengthen their diminished population, the National Zoo said.
According to WTOP, Bei Bei was put in his travel crate and loaded onto a FedEx truck around 9:30 a.m. The truck was ferrying Bei Bei to Dulles International Airport, where he is expected to take off around noon.
66lbs of bamboo, 2lbs of apples and pears and some sweet potatoes. He's ready for the 16hr flight! @WTOPpic.twitter.com/rKkCjagHWx
Befitting his popularity, Bei Bei will be flying direct to China in style, in his own private FedEx cargo jet that was specially painted with his image for the occasion and nicknamed the "Panda Express."
According to the Washington Post, the Boeing 777 is being loaded with "66 pounds of bamboo, two bags of leafeater biscuits, two pounds of apples and pears, two pounds of cooked sweet potatoes, and water" for the 16-hour flight.
Bei Bei will be traveling in a steel-and-plexiglass transport container provided by FedEx, which has been slowly introduced to him to get him used to it.
The FedEx Panda Express flies again! We put panda decals on this 777F just for Bei Bei's ride from Washington DC to China. Bei Bei will be the only cargo on this special direct flight, unless you count the 66 pounds of bamboo, snacks & water. #ByeByeBeiBeihttps://t.co/m6atXXmSUepic.twitter.com/GSPBVrZObu Tweet Embed:
If you were a giant panda taking a 16-hour flight to China, what would you want on your playlist? As we say #ByeByeBeiBei with our @NationalZoo, we invite you to change "baby" to "Bei Bei" and share your picks with #BeiBeiMixTape. pic.twitter.com/2n5VuLiXBG
"He will be able to move, eat, and play with his toys in complete comfort," FedEx spokeswoman Rae Lyn Rushing told the Washington Post. "The enclosure is constructed in a way to clean and maintain it as needed."
Bei Bei's American keeper and a veterinarian will accompany the bear for the journey. The former will accompany Bei Bei to the Bifengxia Panda Base, and stay there for a short time to help Bei Bei get used to his new home, according to USA Today.
Visitors flocked to the zoo on Sunday to fete Bei Bei before he left, where the panda was treated to ice cake as a goodbye gift.
- Read more:
- China is angry at Thailand after a panda it lent to a zoo in Chiang Mai unexpectedly died
- A giant panda national park is opening in China, and it will reportedly be nearly 3 times the size of Yellowstone National Park
- China is using facial recognition to help identify pandas that live deep in the mountains
- The 24-hour livestream of the National Zoo's giant pandas has turned off because of the government shutdown, and people are furious
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