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South Koreans bid tearful farewell to beloved panda Fu Bao

YONGIN, South Korea — South Koreans bid farewell on Wednesday (April 3) to Fu Bao, the first giant panda born in the country, as she left the zoo where she was born in 2020 to be flown to China in a tearful send-off by a large crowd of fans braving steady rain.

Zoo keepers thanked the panda cub for bringing joy and the fans for the love they had shown Fu Bao in the four years she spent growing up at the Everland zoo. She was then put on a climate-controlled truck to take her to the airport.

"It was a miracle to meet you. Thank you, Fu Bao," read a message attached to photographs of the panda that covered the vehicle. Fu Bao, which means lucky treasure, had been in quarantine for a month and did not appear before the public.

"This day has really come ... the day you are beginning a long journey for the next part of your life," zoo keeper Kang Cher-won, who had been caring for Fu Bao, said in a farewell message. "Thank you and we're proud of you."

Fans had the last view of her a month ago when thousands of visitors queued up in the early morning chill, many saying they will miss the panda after she's gone.

The panda is leaving for China's Sichuan province.

The cub's parents, 10-year-old female Ai Bao and 11-year-old male Le Bao, arrived in 2016 from Sichuan province, the home of the giant pandas, as part of China's "panda diplomacy". Last July, Ai Bao gave birth in South Korea to giant panda twins.

Female pandas can only conceive once a year for a limited period, and cubs have very low chances of survival as they are often born prematurely, usually weighing less than 200 grams (0.44 lb).

South Koreans bid farewell to beloved panda Fu Bao before her return to China