- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2019

Bei Bei, a giant panda at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo, will be moving from Washington, D.C., to China in November, zoo officials confirmed Friday.

As part of the National Zoo’s agreement with China, Bei Bei has turned 4 years old and must move to China to prepare him for the China Wildlife Conservation Association’s breeding program.

“Our giant pandas represent much of what the Smithsonian does best, from conservation to education,” Lonnie Bunch, secretary of the Smithsonian, said in an online statement. “As we say goodbye to our beloved Bei Bei, our conservation scientists will continue to work in collaboration to prevent these animals from disappearing, giving them the opportunity to thrive in the wild, inspiring and teaching generations to come.”

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Bei Bei is part of our family,” said Steve Monfort, John and Adrienne Mars director of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.

“Our team has cared for him, learned from him and, along with millions, loved watching him grow. We’re sad he’s leaving, but excited for the contributions he will make to the global giant panda population,” he said. “Bei Bei is an ambassador for conservation and part of a 47-year program that proves bringing species and habitats back from the brink is possible through global cooperation.”

The zoo will host “Bye Bye Bei Bei” events from Nov. 11-18 before the giant panda boards a plane and is flown to Chengdu, where he will be prepped to be included in the breeding program when he sexually matures, around 5 to 7 years old.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature lists giant pandas as “vulnerable” and estimates only 1,800 are left in the wild.

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