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San Diego Zoo panda returning to China

Yun Zi, which means "Son of Cloud,” was crated up Thursday and driven to Los Angeles where he will be flown from there to China.
San Diego Zoo
Yun Zi, which means "Son of Cloud,” was crated up Thursday and driven to Los Angeles where he will be flown from there to China.

One of the giant pandas at the San Diego Zoo is being shipped back to China, the zoo reported on its website Friday.

The giant pandas at the zoo are on loan from the Chinese government, which has the option of calling them back to their native country after they reach age 3.

Yun Zi checks out his birthday cake at the San Diego Zoo in August 2013.
San Diego Zoo
Yun Zi checks out his birthday cake at the San Diego Zoo in August 2013.

Yun Zi, which means "Son of Cloud,” turned 4 in August. He was crated up Thursday and driven to Los Angeles where he will be flown from there to China, zoo officials said. He was the fifth offspring of the adult female giant panda at the zoo, Bai Yun.

Panda keepers began preparing the Yun Zi for the crate a few weeks ago.

They say he adapted to it easily and took feedings while inside it.

They've also been getting the bear ready for a change in diet and cooler temperatures, since he'll be moved into mountainous areas of China.

The zoo said Yun Zi's primary human handler and a veterinarian are accompanying him on the trip.

The zoo is one of four in the United States that participate in the loan program. For a hefty fee to China, the zoos get to study the critically endangered species up close and help with breeding. At the same time, the pandas make for highly popular attractions.

Only about 1,600 pandas are believed to be left in the wild in China, in part because of deforestation and the expansion of farming. The bamboo-eating panda has lost much of its forest habitat in the mountainous areas of southwest China to roads and railroads, according to the nonprofit World Wildlife Fund.

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