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Xin Xing, the world’s oldest panda and progenitor of dozens of new members of her endangered species, has died at 38.
In human-age equivalent, the so-called “hero mother” of Chongqing Zoo in western China would have been about 130 years old.
The announcement came Monday via social media, on the zoo’s WeChat page, nearly two weeks after the panda matriarch’s death — though the reason for delay remains unclear.
The panda matriarch, whose name translates to “new star,” bore 36 of her own cubs during her long and fruitful life, many of whom now reside in countries such as the US, Canada and Japan.
Xin Xing was born in the summer of 1982 at a protected panda sanctuary in Baoxing, Sichuan, and brought to Chongqing Zoo before she was a year old.
Earlier this year, Xin Xing celebrated her 38th birthday in August with a party for zoogoers and “cake” made of her favorite treats, including bamboo shoots and fruit.
At that time, her lifelong keeper, then 56-year-old Zhang Naicheng, told reporters for China Daily, “We spend so much time together, and she is like a family member to me.”
“I want to continue looking after her and help her to live to at least 40 years old,” Zhang told iPandaNews.com last year. “We can grow old together, and make her the longest living panda.”
Only one other panda, Jia Jia, who died in 2016 also at 38, has lived as long as Xin Xing.
Xin Xing’s handlers began to notice lethargy and a loss of appetite in October, followed by labored breathing, imbalance and abdominal swelling. Medical experts from the China Giant Panda Conservation and Research Center and the First Affiliated Hospital of the Heavy Medical School came to tend to Xin Xing — to no avail.
A post-mortem examination revealed she had died of multiple organ failure due to advanced aging.
“The departure of the giant panda Xinxing makes us feel heartache, and we hereby inform friends from all walks of life who care about Xinxing,” the zoo said in their statement.
There are fewer than 1,900 giant pandas left in the world, according to the World Wildlife Federation, most of which live in the temperate forests of southwest China.
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