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Bye-bye, Bao Bao! Ta-ta, Mei Lun, Mei Huan!

  • VOA News

FILE - Panda cub Bao Bao hangs from a tree in her habitat at the National Zoo in Washington on her first birthday, Aug. 23, 2014.

FILE - Panda cub Bao Bao hangs from a tree in her habitat at the National Zoo in Washington on her first birthday, Aug. 23, 2014.

American-born giant panda Bao Bao will be heading from Washington's National Zoo to the land of her forefathers, China, early next year, it was announced Thursday.

Bao Bao's parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, who also live at the National Zoo, are on loan from China, and the agreement calls for any pandas born at U.S. zoos to be sent to the Chinese breeding program before their fourth birthday.

Bao Bao's older brother Tai Shan made the journey in 2010. Now, it's her turn.

Also Thursday, the zoo in the southern U.S. city of Atlanta said its 3-year-old giant panda twins would leave November 3.

A total of four U.S. zoos have pandas on loan from China.

Atlanta's departing panda twins, Mei Lun and Mei Huan, were born July 15, 2013, and were the first surviving panda twins born in the United States.

Zoos prefer to transfer the pandas in winter because it is easier to keep them cool on the long flight.

"The panda team will continuously monitor Bao Bao during the trip and will travel with a supply of her favorite treats, including bamboo, apples, pears, cooked sweet potatoes and water," the National Zoo said in a statement.

The zoo still has one young giant panda, which will remain in the nation's capital for at least a couple more years: Bei Bei, who was born in August 2015.

After the three young pandas depart, there will be a dozen pandas remaining in the United States: four in Atlanta, three in Washington, three in San Diego and two in Memphis.

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