Bei Bei the giant panda turns 4, prepares for move to China

A few zoos in the U.S. offer giant pandas -- have you seen one in real life?

By Michelle Ganley - Graham Media Group
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Bei Bei climbs a tree at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Do you know Bei Bei?

The giant panda, who lives at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., turns 4 on Thursday.

The animal, quite honestly, looks like an oversized stuffed animal and we cannot get enough.

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Giant panda cub Bei Bei props himself up on logs at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

 

Bei Bei was set to receive a “panda-friendly frozen cake” specially made by the zoo’s Department of Nutrition Science on Thursday morning, according to the website, which invited people to visit the giant panda habitat to celebrate.

Bei Bei will soon move to China as was the plan all along, as part of a breeding agreement. This will be the animal’s final birthday in the U.S.

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Bei Bei, at left, plays with his mother Mei Xiang at the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

“Transporting an animal thousands of miles takes a considerable amount of time and effort to plan,” the zoo said online. “The process is well underway, which includes working with other federal agencies, researching travel logistics, coordinating with colleagues in China, and preparing Bei Bei for the move.”

There wasn’t an exact date provided on when Bei Bei will move, but it’s expected in the coming months, the zoo said.

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Bei Bei, at left, plays with his mother Mei Xiang in August 2016 (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

“We will share more details as soon as they are finalized, and everyone will have time to visit and celebrate Bei Bei before his departure.”

So if you’d like to see Bei Bei before the animal goes back, start making your Washington, D.C. travel plans!

In 2012, the New York Times reported that there were 12 giant pandas in captivity in the United States, housed at the zoos in Atlanta, Memphis, San Diego and Washington. Although we struggled to find updated numbers, it's safe to assume the count is still around that dozen mark.

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Visitors watch giant panda Tian Tian in his enclosure at the Smithsonian National Zoological Park in Washington, D.C. (Alex Wong/Getty Images).

Bei Bei, by the way, won’t be the first giant panda to leave Washington for China. Bao Bao moved in 2017, and her older brother, Tai Shan, moved in 2010, according to the Washington Post.

The National Zoo has had giant pandas since the 1970s, the Post added.

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