The world’s oldest male giant panda in captivity has died in a Hong Kong zoo on Thursday.
The panda, named An An, was euthanised at the age of 35, the equivalent of 105 years for humans. He was born in the wild in the south-western Chinese province of Sichuan in 1986.
Ocean Park Hong Kong, where An An had lived since 1999, said on Thursday that his health had showed steady signs of deterioration over the past few weeks, with his food intake declining, until he finally stopped eating.
“Ocean Park is deeply saddened to announce the loss of An An,” Ocean Park said in a statement. “An An is an indispensable member of our family and has grown together with the park. He has also built a strong bond of friendship with locals and tourists alike,” it added.
Ocean Park shared the news of An An’s death on Facebook and called on the public to send their condolences. Thousands have commented and posted photos.
An An and Jia Jia, the world’s oldest female giant panda, who died in 2016 aged 38 years, were gifts from the Chinese mainland. Two more pandas – Ying Ying and Le Le – remain at the same Hong Kong zoo.
In China, pandas are a symbol of harmony, friendship and peace. Outside China, they have been used as a part of Beijing’s international diplomacy since the 1950s.
For many years, experts had worried that the animal was on the verge of extinction. Last year, Chinese officials said giant pandas were no longer endangered in the wild, but they were still vulnerable with a population outside captivity of 1,800.
Reuters contributed to this report