Sad news, folks. Tai Shan, the panda who has the distinction of being the first surviving cub born at National Zoo, will be hopping a slow boat to China in early 2010. Exact dates are not yet known due to the lengthy process of securing the proper permits and preparing Tai for the journey. This youngest addition to the Zoo's panda family came into the world on July 9, 2005 and was on long term loan to the Smithsonian—with a $600,000 price tag. He was initially slated to depart in 2007, but negotiations between the Zoo and the Chinese government extended his stay here for another two years. (The Zoo's two adult pandas, Mei Xiang and Tian Tian, are on a ten year loan, which expires next year. Any negotiations regarding extending their stay here will not begin until spring 2010.) Unfortunately, Tai's time in the United States is most definitely coming to an end. For those of you still hoping to get a look at the little guy, hop on over to the Zoo as soon as you can before he goes off display. The rest of us will have to be contented with memories of the way we were.
And for more photos of Tai Shan, check out our photo gallery of snapshots from the past four and a half years.