An An, the world's oldest captive giant panda, died Thursday at age 35, the Hong Kong Zoo where the animal spent the majority of its life announced.
An An's health had deteriorated in recent weeks. His physical activity and appetite had declined sharply and he was euthanized by veterinarians Thursday morning, according to a statement from Ocean Park Zoo and Amusement Park.
Panda's age equals a human age of 105, the park said, and “the difficult decision” to euthanize was made for welfare reasons, in consultation with Chinese experts.
Born in the wild in Sichuan, a province in mainland China, An An was one of a pair of pandas donated to Hong Kong by Beijing to celebrate the second anniversary of the city's handover from Britain in 1999. /p>
He and his partner Jia Jia spent the rest of their lives in Ocean Park. They were a venerable couple – Jia Jia held the Guinness World Records for oldest living panda and oldest living panda in captivity when he died aged 38 in 2016.
The average lifespan of a panda in the wild is 14 to 20 years, according to the endangered species conservation organization WWF.
After Jia Jia's death, his surviving companion was led a rather lonely life — in 2021, he celebrated his 35th birthday alone with a fruit-and-bamboo iced cake, surrounded by several handmade birthday cards from park staff.
Pandas are a diplomatic gift of choice from Beijing.
When they arrived in Hong Kong, the city's then chief executive, Tung Chee-hwa, said that their names would make Hong Kong stable (An) and successful (Jia).
And when news of An An's lack of appetite broke last week, the Chief Executive current, John Lee, called Ocean Park to express his concern.
Pandas have difficulty reproducing, especially when in captivity. They are classified as “vulnerable” by the WWF, with 1,864 individuals living in the wild.