An, a bamboo-eating resident of Hong Kong’s Ocean Park known for his feisty, playful nature and reputed to be the world’s oldest giant male panda in captivity, died Thursday after suffering health problems. He was 35 – or 105 in human years.
The death by euthanasia was announced by the park on its Facebook page, which mourned the loss of its “centenary panda.”
The panda struggled with feeding and physical activity for weeks, after which park officials, veterinarians and the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda euthanized it.
In the final days of his life, An An refused solid food and became increasingly sedentary, officials said. He consumed only water and electrolytes, and his diet varied widely from the daily intake of 30 pounds of bamboo that giant pandas typically eat.
dr Paolo Martelli, Director of Veterinary Services at Ocean Park, conducted the procedure at An An’s park residence, the Hong Kong Jockey Club Sichuan Treasures.
An An arrived in Hong Kong in 1999 with a female companion, Jia Jia. The Guinness Book of World Records listed her as the oldest giant panda in captivity in 2015. She died in 2016 at the age of 38.
The life span of pandas in the wild is typically between 14 and 20 years. Captive pandas rarely live past 30. But there are exceptions. In 2020, Xin Xing, a giant panda who lived at Chongqing Zoo in southwest China and was famous for eating up to 70 pounds of food a day, died at the age of 38. A year for pandas is equivalent to about three years for humans, according to an Ocean Park conversion.
While giant pandas were listed as an endangered species by the International Union for the Conservation of Nature in 1990, the organization reclassified the bears as “Vulnerable” in 2016. As of last year, there were about 1,800 giant pandas in the wild in China and 500 in captivity worldwide.
There are concerns about the animals’ conservation due to the destruction of their natural habitats, including the Yangtze River Basin region of China, from infrastructure development, forest loss and climate change.
While the Chinese government has undertaken restoration efforts to preserve pandas’ natural habitats and has dozens of panda sanctuaries across the country, protection covers only half of its ecosystems, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
As news of An An’s death spread, a wave of condolences flowed from the public online. Ocean Park Corporation Chairman Paulo Pong also mourned the loss, saying in a press release Thursday that An An “brought us fond memories with numerous heartwarming moments. We will miss his cleverness and playfulness very much.”
In 2020, Hong Kong’s Ocean Park drew global attention when two of its other pandas, Ying Ying and Le Le, both then 14 years old, succeeded in mating naturally after several unsuccessful attempts since 2010. The park had been closed as part of Hong Kong’s attempt to combat the coronavirus, keeping it free of the usual gawkers and perhaps giving the animals some privacy for mating.