South Korean public bid farewell to Fu Bao with great reluctance on her final day on display

Fu Bao, the first giant panda born in South Korea through natural breeding, was on display for her final day at the Panda World of Everland Resort in Yongin city, South Korea, on Sunday. A throng of visitors flocked to the amusement park to say their farewells to the panda, which is scheduled to return to China this April.

From Monday, the giant panda will be placed in a separate space for one month for health examinations and quarantine before returning to the Shenshuping base of the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in Wolong National Nature Reserve in Southwest China’s Sichuan Province as scheduled in accordance with international regulations on wild animals.

Since the day when the female panda was born, Fu Bao has brought a great many joys and comfort to the South Korean people and she has been receiving much attention and affection from the public in return. Many park-goers queued for hours outside the amusement park on Sunday in order to say goodbye to the panda for the last time, China Central Television (CCTV) reported on Sunday.

On Sunday, zookeepers at the park, Kang Chul-won and Song Young-kwan, known as Fu Bao’s “grandpas” who have taken good care of Fu Bao, prepared delicious bamboo sticks and a large bouquet of rape flowers to say farewell to the panda.

Crowds of people waited as early as 3 am to line up to see Fu Bao on her last day, Korea JoongAng Daily reported on Sunday.

Fu Bao appeared at around 9:30 am as camera flashes exploded and adoring fans called the panda’s name. She took her usual spot beside the pile of bamboo sticks and began to eat habitually, seemingly unaware of the fact that this was her last day to meet with the Korean public, according to Korea JoongAng Daily.

According to zoo director Jeong Dong-hee, Fu Bao will be moving to China on April 3. In order to minimize any discomfort during her journey, the South Korean side has specially prepared a shock-absorbing vehicle to transport Fu Bao to the Incheon International Airport. Afterward, Fu Bao will board a special plane dispatched by China to return to China and zookeeper Kang will be accompanying the giant panda on her flight, CCTV reported.

Under the agreement with China, all giant pandas, even those born outside of China, must be returned to China when they reach sexual maturity at the age of 4 to join the country’s breeding program.

Being a superstar in South Korea, Fu Bao was given a number of cute nicknames by her fans such as Miss Fu of Yongin, Princess Fu and Chubby Fu. After the announcement of the date of Fu Bao’s return schedule, the average daily number of visitors to the amusement park exceeded 8,000.

At present, “Fu Bao’s return to China” has become a hot topic in South Korea, with media frequently covering related stories about Fu Bao and books on Fu Bao quickly becoming bestsellers.

Multiple brands have launched co-branded products with the giant panda family of Fu Bao including headphones and clothing, and the panda-themed photo booths on the streets are quite popular among photo sticker selfie enthusiasts.

Yongin city in Gyeonggi Province presented a special honorary citizen certificate to Fu Bao on February 8. This certificate, specially made from bamboo, reads that the city gives the “superstar” this certificate in recognition of its contribution to bringing happiness to the entire nation and to cherish the relationship it had formed with Yongin city.

After Fu Bao returns to China, only four giant pandas will remain in Everland’s zoo, including Fu Bao’s mother Ai Bao and father Le Bao, and their twin babies Rui Bao and Hui Bao, born last July.