World’s oldest panda in captivity, Jia Jia, dies in Hong Kong’s Ocean Park

Posted at 1:37 PM, Oct 17, 2016
and last updated 2016-10-17 13:37:28-04

HONG KONG — The world’s oldest panda in captivity died Sunday in Hong Kong’s Ocean Park.

Jia Jia, a popular resident at Hong Kong's Ocean Park, turns 37 years old — that's more than 100 in human years. (Hong Kong Ocean Park)

Jia Jia, a popular resident at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park, turns 37 years old — that’s more than 100 in human years. (Hong Kong Ocean Park)

Jia Jia was 38, and had lived at the zoo for the past 17 years.

In a statement, Ocean Park said the panda had been “rapidly deteriorating” in recent weeks, with greatly reduced food consumption and a marked decrease in weight.

Her condition took a turn for the worse on Sunday, leaving her unable to do anything but lay down for the majority of the day. To prevent further suffering, the zoo decided to euthanize Jia Jia, and veterinarians performed the procedure at 6 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET).

Ancient panda

Dubbed the “Grandma panda,” and the equivalent of 114-years-old in human terms, Jia Jia had reportedly been suffering from multiple geriatric diseases including high blood pressure, arthritis and cataracts on both eyes.

She broke a world record last year on her 37th birthday, becoming the oldest panda living in captivity.

The average life expectancy of a giant panda is below 20 years in the wild, and just over 20 years under human care, according to Wang Chengdong, director of veterinary services at the Wolong National Nature Reserve in China’s Sichuan province.

“Jia Jia’s longevity is a result of Ocean Park’s ongoing efforts in providing best-practice of care to the giant pandas,” he said.

Local celebrity

Born in the wild, Jia Jia was rescued in 1980 and kept at Wolong for over a decade before being given as part of a pair to the Hong Kong government by China in 1999.

Her mate, An An, is now the world’s second oldest male giant panda in captivity, at 30-years-old.

Jia Jia and An An became an instant sensation on their arrival in Hong Kong, with more than 29 million guests visiting them over the years, according to Ocean Park.

“(She) was a member of our family who spent 17 wonderful years with the Hong Kong people, and she will be deeply missed,” park chairman Leo Kung said.