Aug. 23 (UPI) — The Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, D.C., celebrated Bei Bei the giant panda’s fourth birthday on Thursday ahead of his planned transfer to China.
Zoo spokeswoman Devin Murphy said the celebration was “bittersweet,” as it also represents the fact that Bei Bei’s time at the zoo — as part of the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology institute’s breeding program with the China Wildlife Conservation Association — is coming to an end.
“This will be Bei Bei’s last birthday that he celebrates at the zoo,” she said. “All of our giant panda cubs move to China around the time that they’re 4 years old to join the breeding program.”
Zoo staff presented Bei Bei with a cake made of apples, pears, bananas, carrots and sweet potatoes as crowds gathered around his enclosure to take photos and sing “Happy Birthday.”
Bei Bei was born at the Smithsonian National Zoo on Aug. 22, 2015, to parents Mei Xiang and Tan Tan.
An exact date for his departure to China has not been set, but zoo officials said it will take place in the coming months.
More specific details will be announced ahead of his final departure to allow guests to visit before he makes the trip.