WASHINGTON - For millions of panda fans in Washington D.C. and across the nation, Friday is a day filled with reluctance to part with Tai Shan, the beloved panda cub which is leaving the town for its homeland, China.
Giant Panda bear Tai Shan, 4, eats an apple in his enclosure at the National Zoo in Washington, December 4, 2009. Under an agreement with China's government Tai Shan, the first surviving Giant Panda cub born at the zoo in 2005, will relocate permanently to Sichuan, China in early 2010 to begin his participation in a breeding program. [Agencies]
"We are very very sad that Tai Shan is leaving," acting U.S. National Zoo Director Steve Monfort told reporters at a news conference held outside of the zoo's Giant Panda Habitat, where the four-year-old panda cub and his parents dwell.
Tai Shan, the first surviving giant panda cub born at the National Zoo, will be sent to China in January or February next year under an agreement between the United States and China.
"It's a sad moment for us," Lisa Stevens, curator of pandas and primates at the zoo, told Xinhua.
"We have seen every move of him, every moment of his growth and the formation of his charismatic personality. Now it's time to say goodbye," she said.
Leading local newspaper The Washington Post dedicated an article to Tai Shan on its frontpage on Friday, along with a headshot.
It begins with: "We knew this sad day was coming."
The newspaper also held an online discussion on Tai Shan's departure on its website.
Local radio station WTOP is encouraging its audience to upload photos of Tai Shan shot by themselves.