The National Zoo in Washington is saying a final goodbye to its panda cub Bao Bao. The zoo is packing up the US-born panda for a one-way flight Tuesday to China, where the 3-year-old will eventually join a breeding program, the AP reports. Bao Bao is scheduled to leave the zoo Tuesday morning and fly from Washington Dulles International Airport in Virginia to Chengdu, China, on Tuesday afternoon. The Washington Post explains that most of the giant pandas scattered at zoos around the globe are loaned from China, and cubs born outside of that country are usually returned there before they turn 4 to take part in the breeding program.
Bao Bao won't have to worry about finding overhead bin space or dealing with a talkative seatmate on the nonstop 16-hour flight: She'll be the only panda on the plane, traveling with a keeper and a veterinarian. In preparation for the trip, keepers have packed Bao Bao's favorite foods, including bamboo, apples, and sweet potatoes. "I'm sad but happy," one of Bao Bao's regular visitors tells the Post, comparing the cub's departure to "sending a kid off to college." (Giant pandas were recently taken off the endangered-species list.)