The National Zoo’s three giant pandas will head back to China sooner than expected. The Smithsonian said Wednesday they would leave by mid-November, rather than in December.
The giant pandas — parents Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, their 3-year-old son, Xiao Qi Ji — are stars at the zoo. Mei Xiang is 25 and Tian Tian, 26.
Mei Xiang and Tian Tian came to DC in 2000 as part of a breeding and research agreement between the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute and the China Wildlife and Conservation Association that allowed the zoo to temporarily house the pandas while they remained under China’s ownership. The lease for the pandas ends December 7.
The three will leave in separate shipping containers on a Boeing 777 FedEx cargo plane, The Washington Post reports.
The National Zoo has had giant pandas since 1972 when Ling-Ling and Hsing-Hsing arrived, starting the region’s obsession with everything panda.
Feature image courtesy the National Zoo/X
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