Tearful Farewell to Panda Icon Fu Bao at Seoul’s Everland Park

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Underneath the storm-laden, somber gray skies of Seoul, a crowd congregate at the Everland amusement park. Their eyes, some stagnant with brimming tears, focused on the spectacle unfolding before them. Wednesday was no ordinary day; it was a day of tearful goodbyes as they were marking the departure of a beloved icon – Fu Bao, the giant panda.

Since her birth in 2020, Fu Bao had been the prideful cynosure at the Everland theme park, captivating audiences nonstop with her endearing charm. A descendant in an illustrious lineage, she was the offspring of Ai Bao and Le Bao—legacy pandas hailing from China who were shared with South Korea under a goodwill, 15-year lease program in 2016.

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Indeed, the presence of the pandas extended beyond being a token of amicability. The gesture signified considerable conservation efforts as well. Through years of tireless nurture and meticulous study in captivity, along with crucial measures to secure their habitat, China has miraculously salvaged the panda species from the cusp of extinction. Today, the population tallies above 1,800, an astronomical spike from a frighteningly sparse 1,000.

As Wednesday’s farewell ceremony unfurled in Everland, a sea of enthusiastic panda lovers plunged into the rain-soaked park, ready to pay their tributes to the adorable Fu Bao. Undeterred by the inclement weather, the crowd patiently anticipated Fu Bao’s procession.

As the truck bearing Fu Bao trundled onto the wet, rain-soaked plaza, many onlookers, shrouded in raincoats, hoisted flags in one hand and brandished camera phones in the other, snapping stills of the cherished memory. A palpable sentiment surged through the air; you could hear the choking goodbyes, the fervent farewells that were audible over the rain’s gentle patter. The truck was adorned with a colossal portrait of Fu Bao accompanied by a heartwarming message, “It was a miracle that we met you. Thank you, Fu Bao.”

Despite Fu Bao not being showcased on that final public appearance—the park last showcased her on March 3—the atmosphere was ripe with sentimentality. In a heartfelt speech during the ceremony, zookeeper Kang Cheol-won serenaded the audience, “You are our baby panda forever even if 10 years pass or 100 years pass. Dear all, Fu Bao is now leaving. Please, remember Fu Bao for a long, long time … and please don’t cry much!”

The legacy of Fu Bao’s family is destined to endure since her mother, Ai Bao, successfully birthed female twins last year, the first instance of panda twins being born on South Korean soil.