The adorable panda cub Bei Bei said goodbye to his home at The Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington, D.C. Tuesday, and headed for a new home in China.
The Zoo has a cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, and all cubs born at the National Zoo are transported to China when they turn four-years-old.
Bei Bei turned four in August.
The Zoo held a "Farewell Celebration" during the past week called "Bye Bye Bei Bei" consisting of a number of events, including visitors filling out postcards to bid the giant panda goodbye.
On Tuesday, Bei Bei will be flown to Chengdu, China in a Boeing 777 aircraft donated by FedEx. The company made one of its planes available when Bei Bei's older brother Tai Shan was transported to China in 2010. It did the same for Bei Bei's older sister Bao Bao in 2017. It also flew Bei Bei's parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian from China to Washington when the two giant pandas came to the United States in 2000.
The National Zoo's panda keepers have been preparing Bei Bei for the 18-hour flight by getting him acclimated to a specially prepared travel crate.
A panda keeper and a veterinarian will accompany Bei Bei, and the panda cub will enjoy its favorite foods, including bamboo, carrots, apples, pears and plenty of water.
The Smithsonian says there are an estimated 1800 giant pandas living the wild. They used to be considered an endangered species, but conditions have improved, and they are now listed as "vulnerable," according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.
The National Zoo says after Bei Bei arrives in Chengdu, he will be taken to one of the bases run by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda.
He will enter China's giant panda breeding program when he is sexually mature in the year or so.
The Zoo says giant panda cubs are solitary in the wild and separate from their mothers between 18 months and 2-years-old. Bei Bei's mother, Mei Xiang, and father, Tien Tien, will remain at the National Zoo.