The National Zoo’s beloved giant panda Bei Bei is packing up his belongings and heading to China. We know, we’re sad too. But you still have time to see the giant panda before he takes off on his new journey.
Starting on Monday, Nov. 11, the National Zoo is hosting specialized, panda-themed events for guests and fans to interact with through Monday, Nov. 18, prior to the cub’s official departure the following day. Here’s what you need to know, and how to catch a glimpse of Bei Bei before he boards a FedEx plane to Chengdu, China and the Bifengxia Panda Base.
Due to a partnership within the cooperative breeding program with China Wildlife Conservation Association, the 4-year-old cub must be returned to China before reaching sexual maturity between 5 and 7 years old. He will depart the National Zoo on Tuesday, Nov. 19 with a keeper and a veterinarian from Smithsonian’s National Zoo, who will monitor him and treat him to plenty of bamboo, apples, sweet potatoes, leaf-eater biscuits and water for the duration of the trip.
To celebrate his last week in the United States, guests can visit Bei Bei at the National Zoo, pen a postcard at a station next to Bei Bei’s outdoor habitat (which will travel with him on his trip to China) or catch the keepers feeding him treats throughout the day.
Each day will feature a different enrichment treat for the cub, themed after the partnership with China, and a sweet treat in the afternoon, such as applesauce, sugar cubes, sweet potatoes and honey.
Other interactive events include Q&A sessions with one of Bei Bei’s keepers (held at 11 a.m. every day through Nov. 18), where you can ask all of your giant panda questions and learn more about being a giant panda keeper at the National Zoo.
Saturday and Sunday will have the most activities with a dumpling party starting at 8:30 a.m. on Saturday (in honor of the Chinese tradition of serving dumplings at a going-away party or similar celebration), courtesy of the Embassy of China. Cups of hot cocoa will be provided by Airbnb, and a guests of all ages can visit the make-and-take station to create their very own Chinese bracelets representing friendship and luck.
You won’t want to miss the cake send off on Sunday, Nov. 17, where Bei Bei (and his siblings, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian) will enjoy ice cakes made from their favorite treats. If you can’t make it to the nation’s capital, catch all of the action on the 24/7 live cam of Bei Bei’s habitat here.
For more information on Bei Bei, the Smithsonian National Zoo’s partnership with the China Wildlife Conservation Association, or to plan your trip, be sure to visit the website, or sign up for the National Zoo’s exclusive panda-themed e-newsletter. It’s officially time to say bye-bye to Bei Bei. // Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute: 3001 Connecticut Ave. NW, Washington, DC