Washington: Washington's Smithsonian National Zoo began a series of public events in preparation to send off a giant panda named Bao Bao back to China.
"All of our fans are very sad to see her go, but we know that this is a really important step for her, giving her the opportunity to return to the breeding center in China and hopefully produce offspring of her own," said Michael Brown-Palsgrove, a giant panda curator.
"It's sort of like sending your kid off to college," he said. "Bao Bao is more independent than our male cub."
Keepers assured panda fans that Bao Bao has well prepared for her 16-hour direct flight to Chengdu city.
Kate Masters, who came to bid farewell to Bao Bao with her six-year-old daughter Genevieve, said it is definitely a loss for the Zoo, nevertheless, she felt exciting for Bao Bao.
"I came three times every year to see the pandas. They are my favourite animals in the zoo," Genevieve said.
Following the zoo keepers' meeting, the Chinese embassy on Thursday will bring dumplings to the zoo for panda fans.
In addition, a ceremony will be organised by the zoo on February 21, to bid farewell to Bao Bao.