Pandas Born, Die in China

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Mom attending Newborn Panda

Life Comes Full Circle for China’s Pandas

July 12, 2005 — Joy at the birth Tuesday of another pair of panda twins in China quickly turned to sorrow after the announcement that the world’s oldest giant panda had died after suffering from eating difficulties.

Thirty-six-year old Mei Mei, equivalent in age to an 108-year-old human, died at a zoo in southern China’s Guilin city after emergency attempts to save her failed, the Xinhua news agency reported.

“ It was so surprising that Guo Guo gave birth to twins as it was her first time being a mother. ”

“She had entertained numerous visitors from both home and abroad and remained the most popular animal in the zoo throughout her stay here,” zookeeper Chen Qian was quoted as saying.

Mei Mei had been suffering from eating difficulties and gradual failure of varied organs, sources at the zoo said.

The average life expectancy for a panda is about 20 years.

Earlier Tuesday, the Wolong Giant Panda Center in the southwestern province of Sichuan, announced the birth of a pair of panda twins, just days after another pair of twin cubs were born there.

Seven-year-old Guo Guo gave birth to her cubs on July 8, five days after another giant panda Ying Ying also gave birth to twins, Xinhua said.

“It was so surprising that Guo Guo gave birth to twins as it was her first time being a mother,” Li Desheng, assistant director of the center, was quoted as saying.

Li said mother and babies were in good health after having “safely passed the first three post delivery risky days.”

One of the babies was taken from Guo Guo as the endangered species usually only nurtures one cub at a time, it said. Experts will initially rear the other cub before returning the baby to the mother when it becomes stronger.

Mei Mei was taken into captivity in 1985 to keep her from starving because of a shortage of bamboo.

In 1989, experts tried to impregnate her through artificial fertilization, but failed.

The survival of the panda is of great concern to many Chinese as well as environmentalists and animal lovers around the world.

Deforestation, development and poaching have contributed to their demise.

Giant pandas have a relatively low fertility rate and only mate for three to four days between March and May every year, Xinhua said.

As of the end of 2004, China had raised 163 giant pandas in captivity, while almost 1,600 of the rare animals are believed to be living in the wild in Sichuan, Shaanxi and Gansu provinces.


Name: Giant Panda (Ailuropoda melanoleuca)
Primary Classification: Ursidae (Bears)
Location: The Sichuan, Gansu and Shanxi provinces in central China.
Habitat: Temperate bamboo forests.
Diet: Bamboo, almost exclusively.
Size: Up to 6 ft in length and 250 lbs in weight.
Description: Black fur on ears, eye patches, muzzle, legs and shoulders; white fur everywhere else; thick, woolly coat; broad, round face and flat nose; large molars; round, protruding ears; round body with short, sturdy limbs.
Cool Facts: Mothers will eat their cubs’ stools to eliminate any evidence of their presence, thereby avoiding potential predators. They need to eat more than 22 lbs of bamboo per day to satisfy their daily requirement of nutrients.
Conservation Status: Endangered
Major Threat: Habitat loss and poaching.
What Can I Do?: Visit the World Wildlife Fund and The Hong Kong Society for Panda Conservation for information on how you can help.

Picture(s): AFP Photo/Feng Changyong/Xinhua |

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