We knew this had to happen, but that doesn't mean there aren't a LOT of feelings.
The Smithsonian's National Zoo — and all of D.C., basically — will bid farewell to its 4-year-old giant panda, Bei Bei, ahead of his big move to China on Tuesday.
All giant panda cubs living at the zoo move to China at age four, due to an agreement with the China Wildlife Conservation Association. Bei Bei celebrated his fourth birthday in August.
The popular young panda will take a special FedEx flight to Chengdu, China, during which a panda team will monitor him continuously, according to the zoo.
Like most 4-year-olds, Bei Bei will have plenty of snacks for the flight. In his case, that will be bamboo, apples, sweet potatoes, leaf eater biscuits and water.
His new home will be the Bifengxia Panda Base, one of the bases operated by the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. A keeper from the American team will stay with Bei Bei while he adjusts to his new home.
Bei Bei will join the giant panda breeding program when he is between five and seven years old, according to the National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute.
His departure will make his parents empty nesters. Their two older offspring, Tai Shan and Bao Bao, have also moved to China. However, the National Zoo said Bei Bei won't spend time with them, since pandas are solitary in the wild.
The zoo has been hosting daily events ahead of Bei Bei's departure. Each morning, he's gotten to partake in special enrichment activities and to enjoy sweet treats, such as paw-shaped fruitsicles, pumpkin spice and his favorite sweet potatoes. A postcard station has been set up next to Bei Bei's outdoor habitat for visitors to wish him a written farewell, and a bracelet-making station is set up nearby. Visitors have also been able to ask his keeper questions each day over the past week.
Washington, D.C., Maryland and Virginia local news, events and information
Can't make it to the zoo before Bei Bei leaves? The zoo has also been streaming 24/7 footage of Bei Bei on one of their panda cams.