The Korea Herald

ssg
소아쌤

'Panda grandpa' says not to worry about Fu Bao's health

By Yoon Min-sik

Published : April 12, 2024 - 11:34

    • Link copied

Fu Bao (Everland) Fu Bao (Everland)

The zookeeper who took care of Fu Bao since her birth told the giant panda's fans in South Korea not to worry about the recent unusual behavior she has been displaying after leaving her birthplace to depart for China earlier this month.

Kang Cheol-won, known as "panda grandpa" or "Kang Bao," said the bear's recent behaviors, such as rolling around the cage, are not likely to be symptoms of health issues. He addressed Fu Bao's fans in a video interview conducted by Everland theme park, where she lived her entire life before being sent to China.

"(Fu Bao's) rolling around is actually something we (caretakers) have encountered several times in South Korea. ... She tended to roll around both when she was feeling good or bad, or when she wanted something," Kang said in the video posted at the theme park's official YouTube page Thursday.

Kang Cheol-won, an Everland zookeeper who looked after Fu Bao, reads a letter of appreciation to the giant panda's fans gathered at the theme park in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province on April 3. (Joint Press Corp.) Kang Cheol-won, an Everland zookeeper who looked after Fu Bao, reads a letter of appreciation to the giant panda's fans gathered at the theme park in Yongin, Gyeonggi Province on April 3. (Joint Press Corp.)

"It is likely that Fu Bao wants to connect with her caretakers in China, wants something from them, or is trying to adjust to a new environment. ... It (rolling) is not something that you should be hugely concerned about," he said.

Kang, who accompanied Fu Bao on her journey to China, added that she adjusted well to the new environment, appearing at ease and eating the bamboo during her flight. "It was as if she was saying, 'See grandpa? I told you I could do well,'" he said.

Fans of Fu Bao here have been expressing concerns since a video released by her new Chinese caretakers showed the panda bear repeatedly rolling around her cage, which is not something she did often while on public display in South Korea. Some fans accused the veterinarians at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, her new home, of mistreating the beloved giant panda.

The center responded by confirming that she is safe and is in good health.

Kang is a veteran zookeeper at Everland with over three decades of experience under his belt. He is among the primary caretakers for the Bao family at Everland, being one of the park employees entrusted with caring for Fu Bao's parents Ai Bao and Le Bao when they first came to South Korea in 2016.

He accompanied Fu Bao when she left for China on April 3, despite the death of his mother the previous day.

Fu Bao (Everland) Fu Bao (Everland)

Fu Bao had been the darling of animal lovers nationwide, particularly for being the first panda born in South Korea. She was sent back to China on an international agreement that grants China ownership of nearly all giant pandas, even those born outside the country.

The only exceptions are the countries that had gotten the giant pandas from China before it ended the policy of giving the bears away as gifts in 1984. A handful of countries including Mexico own giant pandas, which are naturally endemic to China.

The rest of the pandas outside China, including the Bao family, are on a high-priced loan.