FedEx has been tasked with transporting three pandas — Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji — back to China.
The delivery company is transporting the bears on a FedEx Panda Express plane that will land in the Chinese city of Chengdu Thursday morning. The flight left on its 19-hour trip from the Washington, D.C., area Wednesday afternoon.
Tian Tian and Mei Xiang lived at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute over two decades. Xiao Qi Ji was born there a few years ago. They had been on loan from China.
The plane the company used for the job was a “dedicated and custom-decaled” FedEx Express Boeing 777F, the Smithsonian National Zoo said.
FedEx told FOX Business it has “taken steps and precautions necessary to provide a safe and comfortable flight” for the three bears.
Those efforts included a FedEx loadmaster “traveling with the pandas to see that the best conditions are always maintained in the cargo section of the aircraft” and giving National Zoo staff “special flight privileges to accompany the pandas onboard the plane for the duration of their trip to China.”
There are “custom-built transport enclosures” for the bears, too. They get the plane to themselves, with no other cargo other than supplies for their needs on board, according to FedEx.
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The Smithsonian said its zoo staff brought over 250 pounds of food on the FedEx Panda Express for the bears. That sizable haul included bamboo, fruits, vegetables and other treats.
FedEx trucks transported Tian Tian, Mei Xiang and Xiao Qi Ji to Dulles International Airport for their flight.
The Smithsonian National Zoo’s panda conservation program spanned just over five decades prior to the three bears leaving Wednesday afternoon. The zoo “remains committed to continuing its efforts to secure and safeguard a healthy future for giant pandas and their habitat,” according to a release.
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The FedEx Panda Express has flown nine other times over the years, including in 2019 when Bei Bei left the National Zoo.