|© VCG—VCG via Getty Images Giant panda Pan Pan sits near a frozen cake during its 30th birthday celebration at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Dujiangyan, China, Sept. 21, 2015.|
The world’s oldest male panda died earlier this week, survived by over 130 descendants living in zoos around the world.
Pan Pan, dubbed a “hero father” of pandas, died Wednesday in China’s Sichuan province, according to the China Conservation and Research Center for the Great Panda, where he lived for most of his life. At 31 years of age, Pan Pan lived to be the panda equivalent of over 100 human years old.
Born in the wild in 1985, he was rescued and brought to the Sichuan facility at two months old, reports Chinese newspaper Huaxi City Daily. CNN reports that, when he was young, Pan Pan was known for his strength and agility.
His virility proved vital in growing the world’s panda population. According to the Huaxi City Daily, Pan Pan was one of only four males capable of natural mating during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since first becoming a dad in 1991, he had fathered even more direct descendants, until old age took him out of breeding duties, reports CNN.
The resulting family, totaling over 130 pandas, now populates zoos across the world, according to CNN — anywhere between Washington and Taipei, and even as north as Edinburgh.
Reports suggest that Pan Pan’s lineage now makes up a quarter of all the pandas living in captivity around the world. Notable offsprings include Bai Yun, currently residing in California’s San Diego Zoo, as well as Hua Mei and Tai Shan, both born in U.S. facilities and subsequently returned to China.
As the Panda Research Center’s official Weibo account wrote, Pan Pan’s health had deteriorated for the past year because of cancer, before taking a final turn for the worse around three days before his death. Earlier this year, the world’s oldest panda in captivity, a female named Jia Jia, had passed away in Hong Kong’s Ocean Park.
Pan Pan, The World’s Oldest Male Giant Panda, Dies At 31
Pan Pan, the world’s oldest known male giant panda, died Wednesday in Chengdu, China, at the age of 31.
According to state-owned broadcaster Xinhua, the so-called “panda grandpa” is singlehandedly responsible for a large portion of the world’s panda population, which was in steep decline at the time of his birth in 1985.
With more than 130 descendants, Pan Pan’s offspring account for a full 25 percent of the world’s captively bred panda population.
“Pan Pan was the equivalent to about 100 human years, but he had been living with cancer and his health had deteriorated in the past three days,” Tan Chengbin, a keeper at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda, told Xinhua.
Pandas in the wild typically live around 20 years, though Xinhua notes they tend to live longer in captivity. The oldest known female panda in the world, Basi, is 36.
Panda populations have rebounded substantially thanks to Chinese efforts to limit both poaching and logging. A once-a-decade count in 2015 put the wild panda population at around 1,864 animals, a 17 percent increase since the last count.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature classifies the animal as “vulnerable.”