An An, the oldest male panda in captivity, is dead

An An, the oldest male panda kept in captivity, has died at the age of 35 in Hong Kong's Ocean Park, where he had lived since 1999

by Lorenzo Ciotti
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An An, the oldest male panda in captivity, is dead

An An, the oldest male panda kept in captivity, has died at the age of 35 in Hong Kong's Ocean Park, where he had lived since 1999. An An was donated to Hong Kong by the Chinese government together with his partner Jia Jia, who died in 2016 at the age of 38.

In nature it is believed that pandas can live on average around 20 years, while specimens in captivity can reach the threshold of 40 years. The Ocean Park indicated that An An passed away at an age equivalent to 105 for a human.

Poor An An, who lived in captivity for 23 years of his 35 years of overall life, was killed after weeks in which the park vets monitored a progressive deterioration in health. An An was eating less and less and starting from July 17 completely stopped eating solid foods, taking only water and drinks made available to the veterinary staff.

The rest periods had also lengthened. Veterinarians from Ocean Park and the Department of Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation, with the approval of the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, have decided to euthanize the old animal by lethal injection.

The present conservation of giant pandas

Giant pandas are an endangered species, continuously threatened by the impoverishment of their habitat and a very low birth rate. About 1,600 are believed to survive in the natural state.

The giant panda is the symbol of the WWF, an organization that works to preserve species from the risk of extinction. The Zoological Society of London, based on criteria of evolutionary uniqueness and small population, considers the giant panda one of the 100 mammal species at greatest risk of extinction.

To overcome the lack of information on pandas, it was decided to build a research center in the Wolong Valley in China. A captive breeding center was also created. The results of this research were used to draw up detailed plans to create and manage reserves in which to place the remaining specimens.

These projects include, among other things, the creation of forest corridors that connect the various reserves, an intervention on the territory aimed at the reintroduction of numerous species of bamboo, in order to prevent the plants from dying in the same period, and the realization of initiatives with which to induce the inhabitants of the forests and villages to proceed selectively in the distribution of bamboo forests.

However, in recent years, the risk of the giant panda has decreased relatively to such an extent that it is no longer properly considered endangered.