National Zoo prepares to say goodbye to giant panda Bao Bao

After spending her entire life at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington D.C., 3-year-old panda Bao Bao will be heading off to China. The zoo is holding several celebratory events leading up to Bao Bao's departure on Feb. 21.

Bao Bao was born back in August of 2013 and is part of the National Zoo’s cooperative breeding program with the China Wildlife Conservation Association.

“There is a loan agreement,” said National Zoo animal keeper Marty Dearie. “Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, her parents, are here on loan, and that loan agreement stipulates that any cub we have is required to go to China. They can stay here up until they are four years old. She is three and a half years old. It is right in the perfect time for her to head back.”

Bao Bao’s flight to China will be about 16 hours. Since she loves bamboo, they are going to take 50 pounds of it along with sweet potatoes and apples.

“It's not unusual for a wild panda to move a long distance away from their natal area where they were born,” said Dearie.

Read more at Fox 5 DC.