A Chinese national treasure has just died. An An, the world’s oldest captive giant panda, died on Thursday, July 21, at the age of 35, Hong Kong Zoo, where the animal has spent most of its life, said. An’s health has deteriorated in recent weeks. His physical activity and appetite plummeted and veterinarians euthanized him in the morning, according to a statement from the Ocean Park Zoo and Amusement Park.
The panda’s age is equivalent to a human age of 105, the park said. “difficult decision” euthanasia was decided in consultation with Chinese experts. When the panda An An’s death was announced, many visitors came to Ocean Park to express their sadness and write a few words of sympathy in a condolence book specially installed in the park.
Born in 1986 in the wilderness of Sichuan in southwest mainland China, where 2,000 pandas still live in the wild, An An was one of a pair of pandas donated to Hong Kong by Beijing to celebrate the second anniversary of the handover of the city to Great Britain in 1999. An An and his partner Jia Jia arrived together and spent the rest of their lives in Ocean Park. They were a venerable couple: Jia Jia was listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the oldest living panda and the oldest living panda in captivity when he died at the age of 38 in 2016.
According to the endangered species organization WWF, the average lifespan of a panda in the wild is between 14 and 20 years. After Jia Jia’s death, An An led a rather lonely life – in 2021, he celebrated his 35th birthday alone with glazed fruit-bamboo cake, surrounded by several handmade greeting cards from the park staff. However, there are still a couple of pandas left in Hong Kong (Ying-Ying, female, and Le Le, male), donated by the central government of Beijing to Hong Kong for 10 years of recession of the former British colony to China. .
Ancient Chinese Panda Diplomacy
Pandas are Beijing’s favorite diplomatic gift. China has pursued “panda diplomacy” for centuries. In imperial times, emperors offered these animals to kingdoms in which they recognized authority. According to Chinese historians, the Japanese court received a panda as a gift as early as the 7th century. The Communists are successfully implementing this donation policy despite the rarity of the animal, which is listed as an endangered species due to the destruction of its natural habitat.
In 1972, Richard Nixon became the first US president to pay an official visit to Red China. Then, to help normalize relations between the two countries, Mao offered two giant pandas to Washington. Today, pandas are no longer given as gifts, but are leased to zoos for around one million euros a year. These loans reflect the relationship between China and the requesting country and can be deferred in the event of a dispute.
Two pandas in France since 2012
Since the arrival in France in 2012 of two black-eyed black-and-white plantigrades, attendance at the Beauval Zoo has grown from 600,000 to 1.6 million visitors a year, according to its director. They became stars, spoiled in cages specially equipped with plants from China, including bamboo. The two giant pandas were greeted like stars when they arrived aboard a specially chartered plane after lengthy negotiations that began under the chairmanship of Jacques Chirac and then continued by Nicolas Sarkozy. Their loan was part of “panda diplomacy” developed by Beijing, which has entrusted several dozen such ursids to several countries such as the US or Japan. A total of 23 zoos keep them outside of China.