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December 29, 2016

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‘Panda grandpa’ dies at age of 31

YET another celebrity has passed away in 2016. This time it is Pan Pan, the world’s oldest male panda, who died at 31 in southwest China’s Sichuan Province early yesterday morning.

An autopsy is being carried out to determine the cause of death but Tan Chengbin, a keeper at the Dujiangyan base of the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda, said: “Pan Pan was equivalent to about 100 human years, but he had been living with cancer and his health had deteriorated in the past three days. He had lost consciousness.”

Though born in the wild in Sichuan’s Baoxing County in 1985, Pan Pan had lived in captivity from just a few months old.

“Panda grandpa,” as he became known, was diagnosed with cancer in June, and also suffered from common old-age conditions, such as cataracts and poor teeth.

A reporter who last saw him on December 21 said he was in a “nursing home” for elderly pandas and, though he was very thin, was in good spirits.

“When the keeper called his name and offered him food, usually steamed corn bread or fresh bamboo leaves, he was able to respond and move out to have dinner,” the reporter said.

Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed, but Pan Pan fathered many cubs over the past 20 years. He has more than 130 descendants, accounting for 25 percent of the world’s captive-bred panda population.

The average lifespan of wild pandas is normally 20 years, but those in captivity usually live longer.

Pan Pan, which means “expectation” in Chinese, was also the name of the mascot for the 1990 Beijing Asian Games, though the mascot was not modeled on “panda grandpa” but on a 36-year-old female panda Ba Si, currently the oldest living panda.

Giant pandas are one of the world’s most endangered species. Fewer than 2,000 live in the wild, mostly in the provinces of Sichuan and Shaanxi.


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