Jia Jia, The World's Oldest Ever Captive Giant Panda, Has Died

Jia Jia, widely acclaimed to be the world's oldest captive giant panda has died a few weeks after it turned 38-years-old. According to the South China Morning Post, the elderly panda was "put to sleep" after her health rapidly deteriorated over the past few days. Jia Jia was among the most famous attractions at Hong Kong's Ocean Park where the animal lived a good part of her life. According to park officials, Jia Jia had lost significant weight after her food consumption declined sharply from more than 10 kg per day to less than 3 kg per day. Jia Jia weighed 71 kg two weeks ago and since then, lost 4 kilograms, ending up weighing a little over 67 kilograms at the time she was put down.

Officials also added that Jia Jia was spending less time awake and did not show any interest in eating food or having fluids. On Sunday, her condition worsened to the point that she was no longer able to walk or move and spent the day lying motionless. Following the deterioration in her condition and considering ethical reasons to prevent Jia Jia from suffering a painful death, officials took the hard decision to put the giant panda to sleep. The final decision to euthanize Jia Jia was taken by veterinarians from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and officials from Ocean Park.

Jia Jia giant panda dead
A photo of Jia Jia [Image by Ocean Park, Hong Kong]

Following Jia Jia's death, Ocean Park released an official statement that reads as follows.

"With deep sadness and sorrow, we announce the passing of a celebrated life of 38-year-old Jia Jia, the world's oldest giant panda to have lived under human care. All of us at Ocean Park are saddened by the loss of our giant panda, Jia Jia. Jia Jia was observed to be rapidly deteriorating in recent two weeks, with her food consumption sharply declining from over 10kg to less than 3kg per day, and her average weight dropping from 71 kg to around 67 kg. Over the past few days, she has been spending less time awake and showing no interest in food or fluids. Her condition became worse this morning, Jia Jia was not able to walk about without difficulties and spent the day laying down. The medical management was limited to avoiding pain and distress. Her state became so debilitated that based on ethical reasons and in order to prevent suffering, veterinarians from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and Ocean Park agreed to a humane euthanasia for Jia Jia."
The euthanasia was carried out by Dr. Paolo Martelli, Director for Veterinary Service, Ocean Park Hong Kong at around 6 p.m.

The statement issued by the park further added that Jia Jia has been living in the park for 17 years. The statement described Jia Jia as a member of the park family and that she will be deeply missed by everyone -- especially her caretakers who had been taking care of her for close to two decades. Jia Jia was hailed by park authorities as an important animal ambassador for her species. The park said they would soon upload a memorial video for Jia Jia on their YouTube channel. The park has also planned to establish a memorial corner outside the park from Saturday, 22 October 2016 for guests to pay tribute to Jia Jia.

Giant pandas are not known to live for more than 20 years in the wild. Even under human care, it is rare for a giant panda to live beyond their 20s. Jia Jia's record of 38 years might remain a record for a long time to come. Jia Jia is believed to have been born in the wild in the Sichuan province of China in 1978. She was rescued when she was about two years old. After spending considerable time at the Giant Panda Breeding Centre at Wolong Nature Reserve in China, she was brought to Hong Kong in 1999 along with another Panda, An An as a gift from China. An An, a male giant Panda, is still alive and is now 30 years old.

[Featured Image via Ocean Park Hong Kong]