Giant panda Xiang Xiang leaves Tokyo's Ueno Zoo for China

Xiang Xiang the giant panda is on her way to China.

A truck carrying the 5-year-old female left Ueno Zoo in Tokyo shortly past 7 a.m. on Tuesday.

She became the zoo's first naturally bred giant panda when she was born in June 2017. Her parents were loaned by China to the Tokyo Metropolitan Government for breeding research. Xiang Xiang belongs to China under an ownership agreement.

According to the agreement, she was to be sent to China when she turned 2. But the move was postponed five times due to the coronavirus pandemic. The transfer was officially finalized in December.

Among those bidding farewell to Xiang Xiang near the zoo on Tuesday morning were three women who became friends when they repeatedly visited the zoo to meet the cuddly animal. They said they would miss her very much, but hoped she would have a comfortable life in China and become a good mother.

About 2,600 people -- chosen by lottery from more than 60,000 applicants -- attended her final public appearance on Sunday.

Zoo officials said Xiang Xiang will depart from Narita Airport near Tokyo on a chartered flight and arrive in Chengdu, Sichuan Province, on Tuesday evening.