Bao Bao's last day at the National Zoo Playful Bao Bao, enjoying her last day at the National Zoo before making the trip to China. (Smithsonian's National Zoo)
Bao Bao's last day at the National Zoo
Lexile

Assign to Google Classroom

Tuesday morning, Feb. 21, was Bao Bao's final one at the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington. For the young giant panda, it might as well have been any other.
 
But for others, those early post-dawn hours were more difficult.
 
"Bittersweet is the best word I can use to describe it," keeper Stacey Tabellario told me. As someone who has worked with Bao Bao throughout the animal's life, Tabellario has always known that she would have to say goodbye.
 
"You know it's going to happen," she said, before continuing. "But that doesn't mean there weren't tears this morning. And that there won't be more tears later."
 
You wouldn't have known it, though, to watch Tabellario and her fellow keepers as they prepared for Bao Bao's departure. Together, they carried supplies for the flight, by the official manifest - "50 pounds of bamboo, 2 pounds apples, two bags of leafeater biscuits, cooked sweet potatoes and water" - to a waiting FedEx van. There, FedEx personnel loaded it into an AMJ. It is a sizable aluminum shipping container that's large enough to transport food for an entire menagerie.
 
Soon after, Bao Bao herself passed by. She was concealed by the perforated white walls of her own enclosure. Weighing hundreds of pounds, this sturdy construction was carried by a bright yellow JCB forklift that had been decorated with an oversized pair of black panda ears and a bushy white tail, as if to make up for the invisibility of the departing star.
 
Turning a corner, the forklift operator loaded his precious cargo onto a second truck, decorated - like its companion vehicle - with an enormous panda decal.
 
Though much of this phase of the operation unfolded out of sight, what followed was visible to all. A group of panda keepers surrounded Marty Dearie, who would be accompanying Bao Bao on her 16-hour flight to Chengdu, along with a veterinarian from the zoo. One after the next, each of them hugged Dearie.
 
"We are a very strong team," Tabellario told me when I asked her about this seemingly impromptu ritual. "As much as we love the animals, we all love each other too."
 
Not long after, the two trucks pulled out. They headed to Washington's Dulles Airport. There, a similar ceremony played out, less the panda keepers and the monochromatically decorated forklift. From a podium, Dennis Kelly, director of the zoo, addressed the importance of Bao Bao's trip. He stressed that it was critical to give her the opportunity to reproduce and propagate her still-imperiled species. Connecting these efforts to everything the zoo does, Kelly noted, "Saving species is a forever business."
 
It was an apt phrase. Not least of all because life was presumably preceding as usual back at the National Zoo. Though the grounds had been closed for the morning departure, keepers were looking after other animals behind the scenes. It was the same as any other day at the zoo.
 
Things will change for the pandas, to be sure. But the three who remain at the zoo likely won't notice Bao Bao's departure any more than she did the hullabaloo that preceded it. If anything, they may enjoy the change. After all, the younger Bei Bei, already on the verge of weaning from her mother, will soon move into Bao Bao's now vacant yard. And before long, Mei Xiang may be pregnant again. That is a prospect that presents both new challenges and exciting opportunities for the zoo.
 
Thinking of the work ahead, Tabellario shook her head fondly.
 
"There's no rest for a panda team," she said, smiling.

Filed Under:  
Assigned 125 times
CRITICAL THINKING QUESTION
Why does China have strict agreements about its pandas?
Write your answers in the comments section below


COMMENTS (61)
  • seyonniek-
    2/28/2017 - 08:38 a.m.

    They have such strict agreements about china because of the way that they run things.They want everything to be organized and not sloppy.They also like to think of themselves as a team so they work together to get what they want and need.

  • dmatthew-dav
    3/02/2017 - 07:56 p.m.

    In response to "Bao Bao's last day at the National Zoo," I say that this is a sad day for the zoo keepers of the zoo. One reason I say the zoo keepers are sad is that he is "Bitter sweet". Another reason is that the zoo keeper said"But that doesn't mean there weren't tears this morning. And that there won't be more tears later." It says in the article "As much as we love the animals, we all love each other too." (more details). A third reason is that all of the zookeepers working there gave the panda 50 pounds of bamboo because they love him.Even though it is sad, I think
    Bao Bao will like it in the wild.

  • smartina-dav
    3/02/2017 - 09:03 p.m.

    In response to "Bao Bao's last day at the National Zoo," I agree that Bao Bao shuld be moved. One reason I agree is that it is important to save the species of pandas. Another reason is that she will be save during the trip and is her instinct to mate. It says in the article they enjoy the change and is necessary once in a while. A third reason is that she will be taken cared for at the new place, just like she was at the zoo.

  • dsarah-dav
    3/02/2017 - 09:16 p.m.

    I agree with the article "Bao Bao's Last Day At The National Zoo". Fist reason why I agree is because zoos are no places for a heathy panda. Pandas need to be in their natural habitat. They may be endangered but they need to fend for themselves. They are not here for human beings enjoyment, they are here to live for themselves. Another reason why I agree with him leaving is because he is making room for a new baby panda. It says in the article,"Things will change for the pandas, to be sure. But the three who remain at the zoo likely won't notice Bao Bao's departure any more than she did the hullabaloo that preceded it. If anything, they may enjoy the change. After all, the younger Bei Bei, already on the verge of weaning from her mother, will soon move into Bao Bao's now vacant yard. And before long, Mei Xiang may be pregnant again. That is a prospect that presents both new challenges and exciting opportunities for the zoo." Although it never does clarify where he is going I still think he is leaving for the best.

  • cbrooke-dav
    3/02/2017 - 09:50 p.m.

    In response to "Bao Bao's last day at the National Zoo," I agree that it must have been sad to say goodbye. One reason I agree is that they have a personal connection with that animal. Another reason is that some of them even watched him grow up. It says in the article "Bittersweet is the best word I can use to describe it," keeper Stacey Tabellario told me." Even though it was sad to see the panda leave, I think that now it has an even bigger habitat.

  • brycew-orv
    3/05/2017 - 11:14 a.m.

    I would like to meet a panda. It would seem cool. U know
    pandas are cute. And I would like to hug one as long as it does not hurt me

  • jessicas-pel
    3/06/2017 - 11:49 a.m.

    China has strict agreement about pandas because pandas are still imperiled and they don't want the panda to get sick or hurt.

  • juliamc-pel
    3/06/2017 - 11:50 a.m.

    They have strict agreements because pandas are becoming endangered.

  • ryana-pel
    3/06/2017 - 12:21 p.m.

    They are endangered.

  • austinh2-pel
    3/06/2017 - 12:27 p.m.

    The giant panda is endangered in china

Take the Quiz Leave a comment
ADVERTISEMENT