World’s oldest captive giant panda dies aged 37 in China

Much-loved celebrity bear was an ‘angel of friendship at home and abroad’, keepers say

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 14 September, 2017, 1:24pm
UPDATED : Wednesday, 04 October, 2017, 3:40pm

The world’s oldest captive giant panda has died at the age of 37 in southern China, her keepers said on Thursday as they gave “Basi” an emotional send-off befitting a minor celebrity.

Basi, whose age equated to about 100 in human years, outlived most of her peers by nearly two decades.

In the wild, the bears have an average lifespan of about 20 years, but those in captivity generally live longer.

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She was something of a beloved star in China and her birthdays were often celebrated with gusto.

State television reported live on Thursday from her home at the Strait Panda Research and Exchange Centre in Fuzhou, capital of Fujian province, which held a memorial in her honour.

“With a heavy heart, we solemnly announce today that the original model of ‘Panpan’, the mascot for the first Asian Games [held in China in 1990], and an angel of friendship both at home and abroad, giant panda star Basi died at 8:50am on September 13, 2017 at the age of 37,” it said.

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Basi had lived at the facility since being rescued from the wild after she fell into a river in southwestern China at the age of four or five, it said. She was named after the valley where she was found.

Basi spent some time abroad when she was loaned to the San Diego Zoo for six months in 1987.

Giant pandas have a notoriously low reproductive rate, a key contributor – along with habitat loss – to their status as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature’s Red List of threatened species.

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The black and white bears, which symbolise wildlife protection efforts worldwide, were previously classified as endangered.