South Koreans bid emotional farewell to beloved panda leaving for China


SEOUL: Crowds of people, some of them crying, gathered at a rain-soaked amusement park in South Korea on Wednesday to bid farewell to a beloved giant panda before he left for China.
Fu Bao has been a major attraction at the Everland theme park near Seoul since she was born in 2020 to pandas Ai Bao and Le Bao, who came from China on a 15-year lease program in 2016.
China sends pandas abroad as a goodwill gesture but retains ownership of the animals and their cubs. Decades of conservation efforts in the wild and study in captivity saved the species from extinction, allowing its population in the wild and in captivity to grow from less than 1,000 at one time to more than 1,800.

South Korean people bid emotional farewell to the beloved panda leaving for China (1)

On Wednesday, many panda fans in South Korea braved the rain to join in farewell ceremony at Everland Park for Fu Bao, which was scheduled to be flown to China later in the day.
As a truck carrying fu bao drove slowly toward a plaza in the rain, many visitors wearing raincoats or holding umbrellas were waving flags, shouting their farewell messages and taking photos with their mobile phones. Some people started crying loudly or wiping tears.
The truck was decorated with a large photo of Fu Bao and the message “It was a miracle we met you. Thank you, Fu Bao.”

South Korean people bid emotional farewell to the beloved panda leaving for China (2)

But it was not shown to the public on Wednesday. The park last showed it to the public on March 3.
“You are our baby panda forever, whether 10 years pass or 100 years pass,” zoo director Kang Cheol-won said in a speech during the ceremony. “Dear everyone, Fu Bao is leaving now. Please, remember Fu Bao for a long time… and please don't cry too much!”
Fu Bao's mother Ai Bao gave birth to female twin cubs last year, the first panda twins born in South Korea.

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