WASHINGTON (WLS) --It's moving day for Bao Bao. The National Zoo in Washington packed up the giant panda to begin the trip to the airport on Tuesday. She is heading to her new home in China. On Monday, hundreds of people stopped by the zoo to say goodbye.
With her final checkup complete, it's time to say "bye bye!" to Bao Bao, as the 3-year-old panda leaves her home in Washington.
"We've been planning for this from the moment she was born," said Marty Dearie, giant panda keeper.
Bao Bao, whose name means "Precious" or "Treasure," will enter a breeding program, part of a long standing agreement between the United States and China.
"It's a really good thing for us and for our colleagues in China," Dearie said.
Equipped with more than 50 pounds of her favorite treats, Dearie and a veterinarian will travel to China with Bao Bao.
"We've been training Bao from the moment she was up and moving," Dearie said.
Spending weeks getting her used to this crate, which will carry her the roughly 16 hours to her new home.
"We don't want to just shut her in the crate and now she's in a space she doesn't know," Dearie said.
But for those who helped raise Bao Bao with their bare hands, it's not such a black and white matter.
"I've been with her literally since the day she was born," Dearie said.
"She's my girl and I will miss her," said Brandie Smith, a giant panda keeper.
Born in August 2013, Bao Bao was the first surviving cub of her parents in nearly a decade, drawing more than 5,000 visitors to the zoo on the day of her debut and millions since, and quickly winning over hearts with her playful attitude.
"The first time she ever got to be in a big snow storm, she slid down a big hill or rolled down with a log and tumbled down and I was laughing so hard it kind of hurt," Dearie said.
Bao Bao is the first female giant panda born at the National Zoo. She is expected to become part of a breeding program once she arrives at her new home.
You can watch all of the festivities live online at nationalzoo.si.edu. The zoo's website features a giant panda cam and commemorative Bao Bao coloring sheet.