The world’s oldest giant panda in captivity, Jia Jia, died on Sunday at Ocean Park aged 38.
Jia Jia, whose name means “good”, had just turned 38 – about 114 years old in human age.
Her health had been getting worse over the past two weeks, with her food consumption declining sharply from more than 10kg to less than 3kg per day, while her average weight dropped from 71kg to about 67kg, a spokeswoman for the theme park said.
She had been spending less time awake and showing no interest in food or fluids for the past few days.
Her condition worsened on Sunday morning, when she was unable to walk, and spent the day lying down.
Based on ethical reasons and to prevent suffering, vets from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and Ocean Park agreed to put her to sleep.
Dr Paolo Martelli, director for veterinary service at the park, performed the procedure at about 6pm at Jia Jia’s den in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Sichuan Treasures enclosure.
The panda, who was described as quiet and friendly with strong maternal instincts, was born in the wild in 1978 and rescued in Qingchuan in Sichuan province in 1980 when she was about two years old.
She was then moved to the Giant Panda Breeding Centre at Wolong Nature Reserve in the province.
Jia Jia was presented to Hong Kong in 1999, together with An An, as gifts from the Beijing government.
The park said the decision to put the panda to sleep was consistent with the approved euthanasia policy of the park and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.
Before she died, she was diagnosed with high blood pressure, arthritis and cataracts in both eyes.
In recent years, Jia Jia also experienced age-related health issues during the summer months.
The park’s chairman, Leo Kung Lin-cheng, said: “Jia Jia was a member of their family who had spent 17 wonderful years with Hong Kong people, and she will be deeply missed. “
He also thanked her for the wonderful things she had brought to Hongkongers and visitors from around the world.
A government spokesman said it was saddened by the panda’s death and expressed appreciation to the park for taking care of Jia Jia, and the support of the Wolong reserve.
Ocean Park’s spokeswoman said it was too early to consider whether it would ask Beijing for another giant panda.
The handling of the body had also not yet been discussed by the Hong Kong and mainland authorities, she said.
Ocean Park has three remaining pandas. Ying Ying and Le Le, who are both 11 years old, are in good health, the park said, while 30-year-old An An, the world’s second oldest male giant panda in captivity, has been receiving treatment for old-age conditions such as high blood pressure and arthritic pain.
The average life expectancy of the species is below 20 years in the wild, but they can live beyond this in the care of humans.