DC

Bye Bye, Bao Bao

The day so many of you have been dreading is here: Bao Bao’s last day in DC.

The Giant Panda born in the Zoo in 2013 and heads back to China, but not before we give her the proper send-off.

Bao Bao’s goodbye celebration was no small party, with the warm with and the overwhelming love for the Giant Panda, it was a packed house at the National Zoo.

When you are one of the most beloved creatures in the District, you can get away with just about anything: Playing with your food is acceptable and cake for breakfast is encouraged, both things Bao Bao did on her last full day here. “She’s probably on a sugar high,” says Louise Snyder, who attended the all-day celebration.

Basically, when you’re Bao Bao, you do what you want, because no matter what she does, the reaction is usually the same: “There’s nobody like her and her personality.
People will do just about anything to catch a glimpse of her, they’ll travel from far away, like Kylie: “I came from New Jersey all the way here,” says Kylie.

Others, will get here hours before Bao Bao is even awake. “We’ve been here since 8:00AM,” says Snyder. “And this is our 4th day here.”

Bao Bao’s fans just can’t get enough. “She has been the heart of this zoo and when she goes it’s going to be this vacuum,” says Snyder.

 

The four-day send-off, filled with dumplings, ice, cake and a suitcase covered in honey, was just as much for fans as it was for Bao Bao. “I’m kind of sad she’s leaving tomorrow but I’m glad I saw her,” says Kylie.

Bao Bao is off to China Tuesday morning from Dulles Airport. It’s part of an agreement with the country: A Giant Panda born in the zoo must go back to China before age 4.

Members of Bao Bao’s fan club know, this might be the last chance they have to see her before she leaves town. A trip to the airport is just too much for many people, like Debra Carrington. “No, I won’t be there tomorrow I don’t think I can take it,” she says.

Zookeepers say Giant Pandas are solitary in the wild and the only time male and females live together is during breeding, so fans shouldn’t be worried about the impact Bao Bao’s departure will have on the other pandas.

Bao Bao was born in the National Zoo in 2013 an has been living in solitary since March of 2015, away from her mother, Mei Xiang. Male pandas don’t play a role in raising their cubs so Bao Bao has never interacted with her father, Tian Tian. Zoo officials also say although Bao Bao has seen her brother Tian Tian from time to time, they have not expressed much interest in each other, which is normal.

The National Zoo will be closed Tuesday morning from 8:00AM until noon for Bao Bao’s departure.

Zoo officials say whether or not Bao Bao will have a webcam in China will  be up to her keepers there.

Bao Bao’s brother, Bei Bei, will take over her enclosure.

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