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Bei Bei the giant panda celebrates his last National Zoo birthday

Now that he’s four, he will relocate to China in the coming months

Bei Bei the giant panda at the National Zoo. He is sticking his tongue out from a tree branch.
Bei Bei at the National Zoo (2016)
AFP/Getty Images

Update, August 22:

Happy birthday, Bei Bei! We’ll miss you when you’re gone. Thanks for all the fun memories.

Original post, August 21:

Some bittersweet animal news: Bei Bei, the giant panda at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo who has captivated D.C. residents’ collective attention since he was born here in 2015, will turn four tomorrow. But under the terms of an international breeding agreement between the zoo and China, he will soon move to China, just as his older sister Bao Bao did in 2017.

At 9 a.m. Thursday, Bei Bei will receive a “panda-friendly frozen cake,” according to the zoo. (If you can’t make it in person, you can watch the occasion on the zoo’s panda cams.) Then, it’s only a matter of time before he leaves D.C. “Transporting an animal thousands of miles takes a considerable amount of time and effort to plan,” the zoo says in a statement. “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.”

Bei Bei will relocate to China “in the coming months,” though an exact date for his departure hasn’t been determined yet, zoo officials say. He was born at the zoo August 22, 2015, along with an unnamed twin cub who died four days after birth. His name, chosen by former First Lady Michelle Obama and her Chinese counterpart in September 2015, means “precious” or “treasure” in Mandarin. He is known to like climbing, biscuits, and the occasional snow day.

In other giant panda news, Mei Xiang, Bei Bei’s mother, is showing signs of being pregnant or pseudopregnant, according to zoo officials. As a result, the giant panda house is closed to provide her a quiet environment. The zoo says the best times to see the giant pandas in their outdoor enclosure is before 9:30 a.m. and at 1:30 p.m. for their daily afternoon enrichment.

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