Fubao, a baby panda that lives in Everland, was born to Aibao and Lubao, the only giant pandas in Korea. Fubao was the first naturally bred panda in Yongin, Korea and was born on July 20, 2020.
Because of this fact, she’s really hogged the limelight in Korea. Even her name which means ’a treasure that gives a lot of happiness’ was selected through the public contest. Many people give love and attention to her but Fubao must go back to China next July when she become four years old. This sad news made many people feel sorry that she has to leave.
Pandas were designated as an endangered species in 1980. So, a panda is only being sent to other countries by China on a temporary basis. This has been called ’panda diplomacy’. China has ownership of all the pandas, even their babies. Fubao's mother, Aibao, and father, Lubao, have been on loan since 2016. They will be returned to China in 2031, as they have agreed to rent them for 15 years. However, Fubao, who was born between them in Korea, has to be separated from his parents to meet his mate. Because there are only her parents of pandas in Korea. It is expected to move to an environment in China where she can breed with another panda that have returned from other countries like Fubao. According to the officials, if Fubao is repatriated to China, there is no chance to come back to Korea.
Pandas have difficulties reproducing naturally. But Everland, which has succeeded in breeding naturally, is famous for its efforts and attention to Fubao. Everland transported bamboo collected from Hadong, Gyeongsangnam-do every week to provide fresh bamboo leaves to Fubao. Along with these efforts, many people feel bad about the separation between Fubao and zookeeper Chul won Kang, who raised Fubao. The relationship between Fubao and him is very famous for being affectionate. Although pandas are characterized by their inherent independent tendencies, they have a special bond with each other. So, many people have a lot of lingering feelings about Fubao’s leaving. When Fubao's video was uploaded to the official YouTube channel, it leads popularity from many netizens on her. This scene quickly increased the popularity of the baby panda Fubao.
Chul-won Kang, a zookeeper who shared every moment of Fubao, expressed regret on the TV show <You Quiz>. He said, "It is sad to say goodbye to Fubao, but I hope that Fubao would get along well in China with many pandas. Rather, I evaluate positively for repatriation to China.". Through this interview, we could get a glimpse of the zookeeper's tremendous affection for Fubao. Many Chinese netizens want to continue to be with him.
Panda Diplomacy in China
Panda diplomacy began in 1972 with the commemoration of President Nixon's visit to China. Since then, it has been used as a token of diplomatic relations by sending pandas during the diplomatic process of Russia, Germany, and Korea. China also used pandas as symbols and exhibition halls to promote the country at the Olympics and the World Cup. As such, pandas are China's most successful diplomatic tool. China used the cute and friendly image of pandas.
However, China has made regulations on panda lending since the 1980s. It began to receive up to $1 million (1.3 billion won) when renting a panda for a year. If baby pandas are born like Fubao during the rental period, they have to pay $400,000 (500 million won) to China. In addition, baby pandas are repatriated to China after the age of three and are structured to contribute to breeding.
China's panda diplomacy contributes not only to national interests but also to species preservation. However, there is a lot of money being traded with pandas, so there is a negative element. In addition, animal rights groups accuse using pandas as a diplomatic tool. The fact that animals are forced to leave their habitats and used for money has become a big political problem. A law was submitted to the U.S. Congress not to proceed with an agreement on the repatriation of baby pandas.
Nancy Mays, a member of the U.S. House of Representatives, said, "Millions of Americans enjoy pandas every year without knowing China's evil conspiracy.".
China, which uses pandas to make financial gains, is unethical. China has been working on artificial breeding to increase the panda population. Examples include studying the DNA of newborn pandas or soft release. As a result, it has shown results in alleviating the endangered stages of pandas. But all the processes were to China's interest.
Ethical issues of animal diplomacy
Animal diplomacy is a big mistake in terms of 'animal welfare'. Because animals are used for diplomatic purposes and are treated as possessions in animal diplomacy. So, repatriation without regard to the will of the animal should be stopped. It is violence that causes them to feel stressed on the move. This is because it does not consider animals’ interests. Using animals as a diplomatic tool is an outdated practice. It is time to stop animal diplomacy to disappear worldwide.
Animal diplomacy is increasingly revealing its limits. Examples include poor facility management, animal abuse, and zookeeper attacks. No matter how hard we take care of animals, we cannot take responsibility for their lives forever. They must stop pretending to protect animals.
Depending on each country's diplomatic relationship, the animals' life environment may become unstable. They need to respect the value of life and improve their treatment.
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