Giant Panda Bei Bei Departs Smithsonian’s National Zoo for China
WASHINGTON, D.C., November 19, 2019–Bei Bei (BAY-BAY), the 4-year-old giant panda, began his journey to China this morning. FedEx Corp. (NYSE: FDX) is providing safe transport for this precious cargo as he is returned home to aid the world’s conservation efforts for this endangered species. Bei Bei departed the Smithsonian’s National Zoo at 9:30 a.m. for Dulles International Airport in northern Virginia where he will board a dedicated FedEx 777F plane bound for Chengdu, China. The non-stop flight will take about 16 hours.
This morning, the Zoo’s panda team arrived at 6:30 a.m. to finalize preparations for Bei Bei’s departure. Bei Bei received his last “American breakfast” of bamboo and leafeater biscuits and spent time in his outdoor habitat. Already acclimated from daily training, Bei Bei was called back indoors by assistant curator of giant pandas, Laurie Thompson, and then into the custom travel crate at approximately 8:15 a.m. Zoo staff moved the crate onto a specially decorated forklift that traveled carefully out of the David M. Rubenstein Family Giant Panda Habitat through the Zoo and was loaded on a FedEx truck.
The “FedEx Panda Express,” a custom-decaled 777F aircraft, is expected to depart at noon today from Dulles International Airport. Today’s dedicated flight is part of the company’s FedEx Cares “Delivering for Good” initiative. FedEx uses its global network and logistics expertise to help organizations with mission-critical needs in times of disaster and for special shipments. “FedEx is honored to be entrusted with Bei Bei’s journey to his new home in China,” said Richard W. Smith, executive vice president of Global Support, regional president of the U.S., FedEx Express. “Our team of skilled logistics experts, pilots and drivers take great pride in using their expertise to help support efforts to preserve this beloved, rare animal.”
The specialized travel crate built for FedEx is made of steel and plexiglass and weighs approximately 800 pounds. Laurie Thompson, who has cared for Bei Bei since his birth, and Don Neiffer, chief veterinarian at the Zoo, will make the 8,508-mile trip with him. They will continuously monitor Bei Bei during the trip and are traveling with a supply of his favorite treats, including 66 pounds of bamboo, 2 pounds of apples and pears, two bags of leafeater biscuits, 2 pounds of cooked sweet potatoes and water.
The panda team prepared Bei Bei for the move to make sure he is comfortable and safe during his journey. To slowly acclimate him to the travel crate, keepers asked Bei Bei to walk through it every day. After he became comfortable doing that, they got him used to spending short periods of time in it with the doors closed.
Upon arrival in Chengdu, Bei Bei’s new keepers from the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda will meet him on the tarmac and drive him to Bifenxia Panda Base where he will stay in quarantine for approximately 30 days. The American team will follow, and Thompson will remain with Bei Bei for a few days while he acclimates to his new home. Bei Bei will enter the giant panda breeding program when he reaches sexual maturity between 6 and 7 years old.
Giant pandas are listed as “vulnerable” in the wild by the International Union for Conservation of Nature. There are an estimated 1,800 in the wild. FedEx supports the movement of rescued or endangered animals across the country and around the world as part of its commitment to sustainability. FedEx also donated dedicated aircrafts to bring Bei Bei’s older brother Tai Shan to China in 2010, older sister Bao Bao to China in 2017 and their parents, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, to the United States in 2000.
You can follow Bei Bei’s journey on board the FedEx Panda Express to China on FedEx.com/panda.