US-born giant panda Bei Bei arrives at new home in China's Sichuan

MIchael Howie
Giant panda Bei Bei eats bamboo before heading back to China: AP

He has drawn millions of visitors to the Smithsonian National Zoo in Washington, but now Bei Bei is starting a new chapter at a conservation centre in China’s south-west Sichuan province.

The giant panda was munching through six kilos of bamboo for breakfast on Thursday shortly after a 16-hour flight from the US capital on the Fed Ex “Panda Express”.

Bei Bei was conceived through artificial insemination and born to the National Zoo’s Mei Xiang and Tian Tian in 2015.

His name, which means “treasure” in Chinese, was jointly selected by then-first lady Michelle Obama and Chinese President Xi Jinping’s wife, Peng Liyuan​.

Giant panda Bei Bei eats bamboo before heading back to China (AP)

His return to China is part of a giant panda loan agreement that the country has with zoos around the world.

Any cub born abroad remains the property of their birth country. Once the panda turns four, it is sent to a research centre in China for breeding.