US-Born giant panda back home

Added On February 23, 2017

The U.S.-born panda Bao Bao has returned home in China, where she is due to join a panda breeding program.
But it was a sad day for the giant panda team at Smithsonian's National Zoo in Washington D.C., as they gathered on Tuesday to say goodbye to Bao Bao.
Bao Bao, whose name means precious or treasure in Chinese, was the first female giant panda to be born at the U.S. national zoo. She's won the hearts of many American visitors since her birth three and half years ago.  
Tens of thousands of panda fans, from all over the U.S. and even beyond, have flocked to the zoo over the last few weekends to bid farewell to Bao Bao. The increased numbers of visitors have caused major traffic jams outside the zoo. 
"She's such an amazing animal and is absolutely beautiful. Everybody loves her I'm definitely sad to see her go, but almost really happy that I know she is going to do so well living there in China's giant panda conservation. We will miss her."
Chinese Ambassador to the U.S., Cui Tiankai, and Dennis Kelly, director of the U.S. national zoo, came to the farewell ceremony. Kelly gave Cui fan letters and postcards for Bao Bao from local panda enthusiasts.
SOUNDBITE (ENGLISH) CUI TIANKAI, Chinese Ambassador to the United States,
"We will make sure Chinese people will keep these letters and Bao Bao will 'read' them when she grows up."  
In Chinese tradition, the Chinese embassy brought dumplings to the zoo for panda fans last week, at one of the farewell events held at the zoo this month. In China, many people eat dumplings when a family member is about to leave.  
Bao Bao was born at the Washington zoo on Aug. 23, 2013.
The panda's mother Mei Xiang and father Tian Tian moved to the zoo in 2000 as part of a long-standing arrangement between China and the U.S. for collaboration. Panda cubs born in the U.S. to parents on loan from China must be returned to China.  
China gave the zoo its first set of pandas in 1972 to commemorate President Richard Nixon's historic visit to the country. Ever since then pandas have remained a symbol of friendship between the two countries.
Giant pandas are some of the world's most vulnerable and rare creatures, with a known population of only 1,600, most of which are found in China.