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Pandas

RIP Jia Jia, the Oldest Panda in Captivity

Updated

Jia Jia, who reigned as the world’s oldest living panda in captivity, was euthanized Sunday at Hong Kong’s Ocean Park. She was 38 panda years, or about 114 in equivalent human years. (The life expectancy of a giant panda in the wild is about 20 years.)

Jia Jia’s health had been in decline for the past two weeks, Ocean Park said in a statement. Her appetite had declined to about a third of what it once was, and she rapidly lost almost nine pounds. On Sunday, she was unable to walk and spent the day lying down, at which point the park made the decision to put her to sleep.

“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.”

Jia Jia, at 37 years old, was recognized as the world’s oldest giant panda in captivity in 2015 by Guinness World Records. She supplanted Dudu, who had been born in 1962 and spent most of her life in China’s Wuhan Zoo before dying in 1999.

Giant pandas were recently upgraded from “endangered” to “vulnerable” on the Red List of Threatened Species, maintained by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN). Despite the language, that’s actually an upgrade: The species spent 16 years on the endangered list thanks to poaching and habitat depletion. But they became an international symbol of the conservation movement (thanks largely to groups like the World Wildlife Federation, who adopted the panda as part of its logo) and their numbers in the wild grew by 16 percent from 2003 to 2014, according to National Geographic.