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Handlers Prepare To 'FedEx' Tai Shan To Native China

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By Mana Rabiee

The National Zoo's most famous Giant Panda returns to his native China this week. He'll need much more than a boarding pass for his long journey home.

Come Thursday morning, Tai Shan will join his cousin, a female from Atlanta, on board a custom-fitted FedEx cargo plane headed for China, where he'll begin a new life in a breeding program.

FedEx spokesman Ed Coleman says hundreds of people have been involved in the transport.

"If you take all the ground operations teams, and all the air ops team, and you put them all together and all the experts that it takes, we have been dedicated over the last couple of weeks to make this journey happen," says Coleman.

But only one person will be sitting at Tai Shan's side for much of the flight.

Nicole Meese met Tai Shan -- or Tai -- just weeks after he was born. She's now his principle keeper at the zoo.

"My plan is to just pretty much sit by Tai Shan as much as possible, enjoy those last few hours together and say my good-byes," says Meese.

Tai Shan will fly with one of his favorite toys - a piece of fire hose he likes to play with.

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