Washington Bids a Bittersweet Farewell to Beloved Panda

Tai Shan did what he always does - sat around, ate bamboo, walked around a bit and relished the freezing temperatures and accumulating snow. That was enough for his fans.

Scott DeLong, 16 years old and from Albany, N.Y., told ABC News that he is "obsessed basically" with the panda cub.

VIDEO: Baby Panda Makes His Public Debut
null

"Tai Shan is kind of like Washington's rose. He represents 30 years of hard work that the National Zoo has done in their breeding program to save this endangered species," DeLong said. "We need to say goodbye to him. He has added significance to this zoo."

The overwhelming consensus among panda watchers, from adults to children, this week has been that Tai Shan's departure for China is bittersweet – sad, of course, because of the loss of the beloved animal, but happy because if he is successful in this next stage of his life, there will be more pandas in the future.

Don Moore, the acting director of the National Zoo, said Tai Shan was like family.

VIDEO: David Muir visits six panda cubs who survived a massive earthquake.
null

"It's kinda like sending your kid off to college and knowing that your child is going to be a human breeder eventually too," he said. "We'll miss him but we know he is going on to something more important, another phase in his life, to get a girlfriend, have babies of his own."

Yasmin Helpeling, an eight-year-old from Bethesda, Md., said she has seen Tai Shan 12 times at the zoo because "they're cool and they're fun to see."

She was taking the imminent departure in stride.

"It's sort of happy because he's really from China. It's okay for him to go back," she told ABC News on Saturday.

VIDEO: David Muir visits six panda cubs who survived a massive earthquake.
null

Tai Shan's fans, though reluctant to say goodbye, focused on the positive.

"He'll be in his natural habitat and hopefully he'll help the species and maybe we'll get some more here," said Jennifer Bickford of Bowie Md.

"Hopefully he'll help promulgate his species," said Timothy McGrath of New York City. "And they'll get to see what a charm he is and hopefully he'll bring joy to people there that he's brought here."

"We're all very sad to see him go," said Brandie Smith, senior curator of the Smithsonian National Zoo. "But we're so excited he's going to China to be part of the breeding program and to fill the world with more pandas."

VIDEO: Should We Let the Pandas Die?
null

Tai Shan's fans congregated outside his habitat, standing half a dozen deep, and yelled their goodbyes.

They sent him off with some words of encouragement as he heads off to his new adventure.

"Have fun in China!" said one onlooker.

"And find a girl!" said another

ABC News' Stephanie Sy and John Hendren contributed to this report.

-- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9732718. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9732718. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9732718. -- This embed didnt make it to copy for story id = 9732718.
Page
  • 1
  • |
  • 2
Join the Discussion
blog comments powered by Disqus
 
You Might Also Like...