Hong Kong panda Jia Jia set for world record for oldest living panda in captivity
Hong Kong's giant panda Jia Jia will turn 37 this summer at Ocean Park.
That makes her about 100 years old in panda years, and could see her marking a new Guinness World Record for the oldest panda survivor in captivity.
The last record-holder, Du Du, from Wuhan Zoo in China, died in 1999 aged 37.
“It is rare for pandas to live to this age,” said Grant Abel, the park’s director of animal care.
“It’s probably equivalent to someone, a human person, who would be over a hundred years of age.”
Jia Jia’s caregivers say they are considering sending an application to Guinness World Records after the celebration of her birthday, which is observed in summer, although the exact date is not known, as she was captured in the wild.
Born in China in 1978, Jia Jia, whose name means "good", was gifted to Hong Kong in 1999, along with another panda, to mark the second anniversary of the city’s handover from former colonial ruler Britain.
She weighs 80 kg and is considered to be in remarkably good health for her age, even though her vision is severely impaired and her hearing has deteriorated, says Paolo Martelli, the park’s chief veterinarian.
Jia Jia takes medicines for high blood pressure and arthritis.
She walks slowly and avoids the exhibition area of her enclosure, preferring to stay at the back and feast on several kilograms of bamboo shoots and leaves, besides fruit and high-fibre bread.
“The first thing I thought when I saw Jia Jia was, ‘Oh my God, she’s so old, I’m going to be the one to bury her," Martelli said.
“But actually it’s been 10 years now. And she’s had a few ups and downs, but she always manages to bounce back and look surprisingly good for years after that,” he said, adding that it was hard to predict her remaining lifespan.
Pandas are endangered because most of their natural habitat has been destroyed for timber, farming and construction, according to conservation group the World Wildlife Fund.
A Chinese government survey in 2014 estimated 1,864 pandas live in the wild, up 17 per cent from 2003.
They also have an exceptionally short breeding season, with females fertile for just 24 to 36 hours a year, says a nonprofit body, Pandas International. - Reuters