Science

Hong Kong: World’s oldest panda dies in captivity at 35

Ahn, the world’s oldest captive giant panda, died Thursday at the age of 35, Hong Kong Zoo, where the animal has spent much of its life, said.

An’s health has deteriorated in recent weeks. His physical activity and appetite plummeted, and veterinarians euthanized him Thursday morning, according to a statement from the Ocean Park Zoo and Amusement Park.

The panda’s age is equivalent to a human age of 105, the park said, and the “difficult decision” to euthanize was made on welfare grounds after consultation with Chinese experts.

Wild-born in mainland Sichuan, An An was one of a pair of pandas given by Beijing to Hong Kong to mark the second anniversary of the transfer of the city to the UK in 1999.

He and his partner Jia Jia spent the rest of their lives in Ocean Park. They were a venerable couple: Jia Jia was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living panda and the oldest living panda in captivity when he died at the age of 38 in 2016.

According to the endangered species organization WWF, the average lifespan of a panda in the wild is between 14 and 20 years.

After Jia Jia’s death, his surviving comrade led a rather lonely life – in 2021, he celebrated his 35th birthday by himself, decorating a cake with fruit and bamboo icing, surrounded by several handmade birthday cards by the park staff.

Pandas are a diplomatic gift from Beijing.

When they arrived in Hong Kong, then-city chief executive Tung Chi-hwa said that their names would inspire Hong Kong to become stable (An) and successful (Jia).

And when news broke last week of An’s lack of appetite, current chief executive John Lee called Ocean Park to express his concern.

Pandas are difficult to breed, especially in captivity. The World Wildlife Fund classifies them as “vulnerable”, 1864 individuals live in the wild.

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