Oldest Panda in Captivity Dies in Hong Kong

Jia Jia, the oldest panda ever in captivity, died at the age of 38—reaching a human age estimate of about 114 years old.

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The giant panda Jia Jia looks out from her enclosure at Ocean Park Hong Kong in this July 2015 photo.

Jia Jia, the world’s oldest giant panda living in captivity, was euthanized on Sunday at Ocean Park, an animal theme and amusement park in Hong Kong. She was 38 years old, reaching an estimated human age equivalent of about 114 years old.

In a statement, Ocean Park said that Jia Jia’s health deteriorated rapidly in the last two weeks, down to eating only seven pounds of food a day—a third of her normal daily food consumption—and losing almost nine pounds. On Sunday, Jia Jia was unable to walk and spent the day lying down, ultimately leading the park and Hong Kong’s Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department to decide to euthanize her.

“She was a member of our family and she will be deeply missed, especially by the park’s keepers who took care of her over the years,” Ocean Park said in a statement. “This is a day we knew would eventually come, but it is nevertheless a sad day for everyone at the park.”

In 2015, Guinness World Records recognized Jia Jia, then 37 years old, as the oldest giant panda ever in captivity. Previously, the oldest giant panda in captivity was Dudu, who was born in 1962 and spent much of her life in China’s Wuhan Zoo until her death in 1999. Giant pandas typically live about 20 years in the wild. (Find out more about giant pandas.)

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These pandas are thriving in captivity, but can they make it in the wild? Watch this team of scientists dress up as pandas to give these bears an up-close readiness test.

Pandas are currently listed as vulnerable by the Red List of Threatened Species, a guide by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). The vulnerable listing actually marks a major recent improvement for the species' conservation status: From 1990 to 2016, giant pandas were listed as endangered, meaning that the species faced a “very high” risk of going extinct in the wild.

Since the 1990s, panda poaching has declined, and the species’ protected habitat in the remote mountains of central China has expanded dramatically. From 2003 to 2014, the wild giant panda population grew by 16 percent to 1,850 individuals. (See how humans in panda suits are breeding pandas and reintroducing them to the wild.)

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