Washington A young giant panda who became a major attraction after his birth at Washington’s National Zoo will leave for China early next year for breeding.
Zoo officials announced Friday that Tai Shan (pronounced “ty shawn”) will be leaving the Smithsonian Institution park as soon as January or February. Panda mother Mei Xiang (may-SHONG) and father Tian Tian (tee-YEN tee-YEN) are on a 10-year, $10 million loan to the zoo until December 2010.
Under the Smithsonian’s panda loan agreement, any cub born at the zoo must be returned to China for breeding. Tai Shan was born in 2005 and was granted a two-year extension in 2007. Panda cubs are also slated to leave the zoos in Atlanta and San Diego.
Loyal panda fans gathered at the Washington zoo when they heard the news. Many had visited weekly to watch Tai Shan grow from the size of a butter stick to nearly 200 pounds over four years.