BEIJING – Basi, the giant panda thought to be the oldest of its kind living in captivity, died at the age of 37, equivalent to more than 100 human years, the Chinese state news agency reported on Thursday.
The director of the Strait Panda Research and Exchange Center in Fuzhou, Chen Yucun, said that the panda died of multiple diseases, including liver cirrhosis and renal failure.
“Basi’s body will be put in the Basi Museum, which is being constructed for people to forever remember her and share the spirit of the harmonious development between humans and nature,” Chen said.
She was easily the most famous bear in the country, as she was chosen to be the model for Pan Pan, the mascot of the Asian Games held in Beijing in 1990.
Basi was born in the wild in 1980, but at the age of four, she fell into an icy river in the southwestern Sichuan province and, after being rescued by locals, was sent to the center in Fuzhou.
In August, Guinness World Records confirmed that she was the oldest panda living in captivity, since the life expectancy of the panda bears that live in their natural habitat is of 15 years on average.
The giant panda bear lives only in the wild in central-west China, especially in the mountainous region of Sichuan and the Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.
The survival of this species is complicated by their low level of natural reproduction and the disappearance of bamboo forests, which has led to the isolation of different populations and thus inbreeding.
There are currently only thought to be around 2,000 pandas living in the wild in western China, while another 400 are living in captivity throughout the world.
In September 2016, the International Union for Conservation of Nature removed the panda from its list of endangered species and classified it as vulnerable, the stage before extinction.