Hong Kong Euthanized World's Oldest Panda Jia Jia

By R. A. Jayme - 18 Oct '16 05:40AM

The 38-year-old world's oldest panda in captivity, Jia Jia, was euthanized Sunday at the Hong Kong theme park where she lived because of rapid health deterioration, with greatly reduced food consumption and a marked decrease in weight.

Ocean Park stated that the euthanasia was necessary to prevent further suffering and for ethical reasons. A representative from the park said that licensed veterinarian performed the process at 6 p.m. local time (6 a.m. ET).

She and her mate panda, An An, were given to Hong Kong as a gift from Beijing in 1999, on the second anniversary of the city's handover from Britain to China. Before she had lived at the zoo for the past 17 years, she was rescued in 1980 when she was around two years old and was kept at Wolong for over a decade. An An is now the world's second oldest male giant panda in captivity, at 30-years-old. Two other pandas still live at Ocean Park -Ying Ying and Le Le, both 11.

While Jia Jia, whose name meant "good", was in Hong Kong, she had six offspring, spread over five deliveries. With the equivalent of 114-years-old in human terms, Jia Jiahad reportedly had been suffering from multiple geriatric diseases including high blood pressure, arthritis and cataracts on both eyes.

The average lifespan for a panda in the wild is 18 to 20 years, while in captivity it's 30 years, according to Guinness World Records. Pandas, a beloved symbol of China, were long considered one of the world's most endangered animals, although last month a leading international group lowered its classification to "vulnerable."

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature cited conservation efforts that helped the wild panda population jump to 1,864 in 2014 from 1,596 in 2004. However, the Chinese government rejected the group's decision, saying the panda's status was no less serious because its natural habitats have been splintered by human and natural causes.

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