Jia Jia, the world's oldest giant panda living in captivity, died at the age of 38 in Hong Kong this weekend. For the past 17 years she lived in Hong Kong's Ocean Park, where veterinarians euthanized her Sunday due to a rapid decline in her health and quality of life, making their decision "based on ethical reasons and in order to prevent suffering."
"Over the past few days, she has been spending less time awake and showing no interest in food or fluids," said an official statement posted on the Ocean Park website. "Her condition became worse this morning. Jia Jia was not able to walk about without difficulties and spent the day laying down."
Born in 1978, Jia Jia lived in China until 1999, when the country gifted her to Hong Kong — along with another panda called An An — to commemorate the second anniversary of Britain ceding control of the former colonial city to China.
Over the years Jia Jia gave birth to six cubs, and in her later years was on medication to treat high blood pressure and arthritic pain.
Could there be older giant pandas roaming the Chinese forests in search of bamboo to munch? It's a possibility, but an unlikely one. The average life span of a giant panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca) in the wild is just under 20 years, while well-cared-for giant pandas in human captivity can generally live 10 years beyond that. At an age almost double what a wild panda might enjoy, Jia Jia lived to what might be considered equivalent to 114 human years, according to the Guinness Book of World Records.
Ocean Park created a memorial video for Jia Jia and shared it via YouTube. You can watch it below: