Visitors to Panda World at the theme park Everland in Yongin, Gyeonggi-do Province, on Jan. 26 were all smiles after seeing a small and precious giant panda cub appear.
Named Fu Bao, the cub was born last year on July 20 as the first offspring of Ai Bao (born in 2013) and her mate Le Bao (2012), the only giant panda couple in Korea. Chinese President Xi Jinping sent the pair to Korea in March 2016 as a symbol of bilateral friendship.
Fu Bao on Jan. 4 made her first public appearance on the 168th day since her birth. She weighed 197 g at birth but is now up to 15 kg, and her black and white fur has grown conspicuous and abundant. She looks pretty much like a panda, walking on all four feet and being able to climb up to a meter on a tree.
The cub likes to roam around and seems quite active and inquisitive. She still feeds on her mother's milk but tries chewing bamboo leaves out of curiosity, and puts in her mouth toys that the panda keeper gives her before throwing them.
Kang Cherwon, the panda keeper at Everland, said, "Fu Bao tries to imitate everything her mother does," adding, "She is very playful. She plays when she sees the (panda) keeper and also has fun playing alone."
Fu Bao has recently shown a bit of independence by playing alone well. She can maintain her body temperature now that she has fur and spends time apart from her mother. Apart from feeding on her mother's milk and playing, the cub climbs on trees and plays with its keeper, with whom she is close.
Because of her young age, Fu Bao will stay mostly indoors until February, after which she will go out, get some sun and exercise.
A zookeeper for 33 years, Kang said the pandas are like his family. When Ai Bao and Le Bao first came to Korea, he said he played a role in their breeding process from the mother's pregnancy to birth. After the cub was born, Kang said his nickname changed from "panda dad" to "panda grandpa."
"Pandas are animals that have difficulty breeding, so once they successfully mate, and when Ai Bao gave birth to Fu Bao, that was an incredibly touching moment for me," he said. "One day, I noticed how I acted like a grandpa through behavior like proudly showing photos of grandchildren to friends."
Panda World is accepting a small number of visitors at a time through reservations in observance of COVID-19 quarantine regulations and social distancing. Those who wish to go there can make a reservation on Everland's mobile app.
Public viewing of Fu Bao and her family is available daily from 10:20 a.m. to 3 p.m