The cardboard cut-out he fell in love with was moved from the enclosure to be with the penguin as he passed away.

In April this year, a Humboldt penguin called Grape-kun stole our hearts when he appeared to develop feelings for a cardboard cut-out of an anthropomorphic penguin from the Japanese hit anime Kemono Friends.

The character, called Hululu, was placed in the penguin enclosure at Tobu Zoo in Saitama Prefecture as part of a limited-time promotion for the anime, which saw other anthropomorphised animal characters from the series scattered throughout other areas of the zoo as well.

While the other animals paid no attention to the cardboard cutouts in their midst, Grape-kun became so enamoured by his 2-D visitor that he couldn’t tear his eyes away from her, and it wasn’t long before photos began surfacing online, showing the penguin staring up at her for hours at a time and refusing to leave her side.

At one stage, Grape-kun was so infatuated with Hululu that he forgot to feed, so he had to be isolated from her for a while until he resumed his normal feeding habits.

Given Grape-kun’s intense attachment to the anime cut-out, zookeepers decided to keep Hululu in the enclosure even after the promotion had ended, and since then, people around the country have been making the trip to Saitama to see Grape-kun. The penguin’s popularity even inspired an exclusive drink made in his honour, and on 9 October, the zoo announced that it would be holding a special “Autumn Grape Festival” from 11-25 November, featuring the loved-up animal.

Whether or not that festival will go ahead was thrown into doubt yesterday, when the zoo sent out a message informing everyone that Grape-kun would not be appearing in his enclosure until further notice, due to a change in the penguin’s physical condition.

The above tweet reads:

Notice of Grape-kun ceasing to be on display. After observing a change in Grape-kun’s physical condition, we are treating it as a matter of importance so from today, Grape-kun will not be on display. Also, Hululu has been moved together with Grape-kun. We apologise for the concern, but request your understanding.

As soon as news broke of the penguin’s condition, messages began flooding in from Twitter users sending well wishes, with everyone hoping that Hululu would be able to nurse Grape-kun back to health. However, given his advanced age – Grape-kun was 20 years old and Humboldt penguins have an average lifespan of about 20 years in captivity – people had grave concerns for his recovery.

▼ “Get well soon, old man Grape.

Sadly, everyone’s worst fears were realised today when the zoo sent out a Tweet this morning to announce that grape-kun had passed away.

The above Tweet reads:

The Humboldt penguin Grape-kun passed away yesterday. Sincere thanks to everyone for supporting him until now. Thank you also to Hululu, who watched over him until the very end. And thank you, Grape-kun, for all this time. Rest peacefully in heaven.

Within minutes, fans from around the world sent through messages and fan art to the loveable penguin.

While the news of the penguin’s passing has brought tears to the eyes of many across Japan and around the world, we can all take solace in the fact that his beloved Hululu was there with him until the very end. Given the high-profile nature of their relationship, it’s highly likely that the zoo will hold some sort of memorial or event in honour of their memory, and while we wait to hear what will happen to Hululu in the wake of her partner’s passing, we send our condolences to her and Grape-kun’s friends at Tobu Zoo. R.I.P. Grape-kun. You will be sorely missed.

Source: My Game News Flash
Featured image: Twitter/@asfum