Bon Voyage, Fu Bao, you brought us so much joy!

Parting is such sweet sorrow, wrote William Shakespeare, and that can be as true when saying goodbye to an animal as it is to a human. On the morning of April 3, some 6,000 people gathered at Everland in the morning to say farewell to Fu Bao, a giant panda who brought them so much joy over the last three-and-a-half years, as she moved to China.

While saying goodbye brought sorrow to her well-wishers, there is also the sweetness of the fond memories they will treasure in their hearts.

A bittersweet parting

Fu Bao became the first giant panda conceived and born by natural means in Korea to parents Ai Bao and Le Bao. Born on July 20, 2020, during the first year of COVID-19, Fu Bao was given an auspicious name that in Chinese means “a treasure that brings happiness”. And for the next 1,354 days, that is what Fu Bao did at Everland, Korea’s premier theme park – she brought happiness and joy to many people during and after the pandemic.

After her last appearance in public on March 3, Fu Bao went into quarantine to prepare for her journey overseas. Having completed the quarantine procedures in accordance with the regulations of both Korea and China, Fu Bao was cleared for departure on April 3.

And so, at 10:40 a.m. on a cool and drizzly morning, some 6,000 fans of Fu Bao flocked to Panda World to watch as the young panda began her journey out of Everland. She was transported in a special truck, one that usually transports semiconductors and is therefore free of vibration. During the drive through Everland, the truck followed a road specially decorated with canola flower designs that held messages of support and encouragement collected in advance through social media. Holding umbrellas, the fans stood on either side of the canola road, watching somberly as the truck, bearing large images of Fu Bao, slowly rolled by on the way out of the theme park. Visual memories of Fu Bao’s cutest moments at Everland were shown on a giant LED screen in the Four Seasons Garden, currently full of 1.2 million spring flowers, to share good reminiscences with her fans.

The two zookeepers who had become very close to Fu Bao and spent the most time with her during her time at Everland, Kang Chul-won and Song Young-Kwan, known as the “panda granddads,” spoke to the assembled fans. Kang said, “Thank you for loving Fu Bao, who is going on a journey in search of a new life, and please remember her forever.” Song added, “Thanks to your affection for Fu Bao she has grown up to be big and strong. Thank you for your support through 1,354 days of happy and beautiful memories with Fu Bao.”

Some of the visitors expressed their sadness at having to say goodbye to Fu Bao after spending her whole life thus far at Everland, but also said they understood that she must go out into the world to live her panda life, resolving to wish for Fu Bao’s future health and happiness. 

To pandas’ ancestral homeland

But where exactly did Fu Bao go? To China. All giant pandas are on loan from China, and Fu Bao has now returned to the country her mother and father were born in. There, in the province of Sichuan, within the Wolong National Nature Reserve, lies the Shenshuping Panda Base, part of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda. This is now Fu Bao’s new home.

Fu Bao will enjoy her life as an adult panda and hopefully find a mate and give birth to baby pandas just as her mother Ai Bao did in July 2020.

Fu Bao was flown in a special chartered airplane accompanied by a veterinarian specialized in panda care that was sent from China to monitor Fu Bao’s health and well-being. The temperature inside the plane was maintained at a comfortable 18 degrees Celsius, and air pressure was the same as a normal passenger plane. During the flight, Fu Bao was given bamboo, wotou (Chinese cornbread), carrots, and apples to eat and water to drink.

On her journey from Everland’s Panda World to Shenshuping Panda Base, Fu Bao was accompanied by zookeeper Kang Chul-won, who has known her from birth, to help her get used to her new home and settle down. We all wish Fu Bao a long and happy panda life in her new home!

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