WASHINGTON (WUSA9) -- The love story between giant panda Bao Bao and D.C. is coming to an end in just a few months.
Giant panda Bao Bao is leaving the Smithsonian's National Zoo for China come late winter of 2017.
According to the zoo's cooperative breeding agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association (CWCA), all cubs born at the zoo have to move to China by the time they have reached the age of four. Bao Bao will be four on August 23, 2017.
“Bao Bao is very special to us at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo,” said Brandie Smith, associate director of animal care sciences.
“She was the first surviving cub born at the Zoo since 2005. She’s captured the hearts of people all over the world who watched her grow up on the panda cams, and she has been an ambassador for conservation. We are sad to see her go, but excited for the contributions she is going to continue to make to the global giant panda population.”
The zoo is determined to make sure she is ready and comfortable during her move to China. Bao Bao will be acclimated to a travel crate, which will be put in the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat.
Bao Bao will start off by just walking through the crate every day and then will eventually start spending short periods of time inside with the door closed.
A panda keeper and one veterinarian will travel with Bao Bao to China. FedEx is flying Bao Bao and the panda team next year from Washington D.C. to Chengdu, China.
According to the National Zoo, somebody from the panda team will stay with Bao Bao while she gets used to her new home in China.
The zoo is expected to announce sendoff events for the beloved panda.