3 of the 7 last remaining pandas in US will be returned to China sooner than expected


Three of the last seven pandas remaining in the United States will leave sooner than expected, as the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C. announced Wednesday changes for the pandas' departure time frame.

Sad news: In a Facebook post on Wednesday, the zoo revealed that its three pandas — Mei Xiang, Tian Tian and their male cub Xiao Qi Ji — are now scheduled to depart for China in mid-November.

Original plan: The three bears were originally scheduled to leave for China on Dec. 7, the same month when the expiration for the research and breeding agreement between the U.S. and China would expire, according to the announcement in late September.

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Farewell party: The Smithsonian National Zoo held a nine-day farewell party for the panda family, which began on Sept. 23 and ended Oct. 1. Some of the activities offered during the event included hands-on arts and crafts and film screenings of “Kung Fu Panda” and “The Miracle Panda.”

There is still time: Those who would like to see the panda family and say their goodbyes in person can still visit the Smithsonian National Zoo while there is still time. If not possible, the zoo also offers a panda cam livestream, available through its website.

What it means for the U.S.: After the three pandas leave in mid-November, the country will only have four pandas remaining, which are taking residence at the Zoo Atlanta in Georgia. Those bears are also likely to be returned to China in 2024.

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