The world’s oldest male panda, Pan Pan, died earlier this week, survived by over 130 descendants living in zoos around the world.
Six months after being diagnosed with cancer, he died at the age of 31, equivalent of over 100 years of a human. Pan Pan, dubbed a ‘hero father’ of pandas, died 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.
Born in the wild in 1985 in Sichuan in China, he was taken into captivity when he was just a few months old. When he was young, Pan Pan was known for his strength and agility.
Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed, but Pan Pan whose name means ‘hope’, was known for his virility. He has been dubbed the “panda grandpa” for his many offspring. 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. Notable offspring 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.
According to reports, he now has 130 descendants, accounting for 25 percent of the world’s captive pandas. They now populates zoo across the world, anywhere between Washington and Taipei, and even as north as Edinburgh.
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.
The China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Pandas said, “In the past three days, Pan Pan’s condition rapidly deteriorated, losing consciousness and the ability to move and eat. He left us forever after rescue efforts by medical personnel proved futile. We hope that there is no more suffering from illness in heaven.”
Pandas in wild have an average lifespan of about 20 years, but those in captivity generally live longer.
The world’s oldest female panda is currently 36-year-old Basi, who also lives in China, after Jia Jia died aged 38 in Hong Kong in October.
The most recent estimates show a population of 1864 adult giant pandas in the wild, up by more than a sixth over a decade, with experts crediting nature reserves, bamboo planting, farmer subsidies and commercial programs for the increase.