DC's Beloved Panda Headed for China
Capital glum as Tai Shan's time runs out
By Rob Quinn,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 4, 2009 1:50 AM CST
In this photograph provided by the Smithsonian National Zoo, Giant Panda Tai Shan licks his birthday cake on his fourth birthday July 9, 2009.   (AP Photo/Smithsonian National Zoo, Mehgan Murphy)
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(Newser) – The panda bear once called Washington's most important citizen by its mayor will soon be departing the capital for a homeland he's never seen. Tai Shan, born at the National Zoo in 2005, has always been Chinese property, and zoo officials are expected to announce his imminent return to China at a press conference today, the Washington Post reports.

Tai Shan attracted millions of visitors to the zoo as he grew from a tiny infant to a 4-year-old, now weighing in at 200 pounds. He was supposed go to China in 2007 but the zoo negotiated a 2-year extension for its superstar. The panda's parents, female Mei Xiang, 10, and Tian Tian, 11, are due to return to China next year.