The Smithsonian National Zoo bid farewell to their treasured giant pandas. Tian Tian, Mei Xiang, and their cub Xiao Qi Ji are set for a return to China aboard the “Panda Express” flight, marking the end of an era that delighted countless visitors.
Ensconced in their crates with 220 pounds of bamboo and favorite treats, the pandas are ready for their 19-hour journey to Chengdu. Two keepers and a vet will accompany them, tasked with ensuring a safe and comfortable trip.
The departure was commemorated by heartfelt speeches from Minister Xu Xueyuan of the Chinese Embassy and Zoo Director Brandie Smith. The pandas have been not just a source of joy but also a symbol of international friendship and conservation.
As the “FedEx Panda Express” takes to the skies, the Zoo and its patrons reflect on the fond memories shared with these ambassadors of wildlife. While their presence will be missed, the hope endures for the conservation impact they will continue to have in their native land.