World's Oldest Panda Dies at Age 34

May 17, 2011
34 years harvesting cuteness. (Photo: Associated Press)

Sad news in the animal kingdom today: the world’s oldest panda, Ming Ming, has passed away.

Chinese state media broke the news to the rest of the world with a headline in the Global Times that read, “China’s Oldest Panda Kicks Bucket.” The panda died on May 7th due to old age and kidney failure.

According to experts, wild pandas are expected to live until about 15 years of age. Those kept in captivity are only expected to live until 22; Ming Ming was 34.

The famous panda was rescued from the forest of Sichuan Province, China, and brought into captivity in 1977 as an abandoned cub. She traveled between various zoos in China and Europe throughout her life.

Ming Ming was the topic of much international debate in 1991 when she was sent to the London Zoo to mate with German panda Bao Bao. After fighting with Bao Bao and failing to produce any cubs, Ming Ming returned to China amid much diplomatic turmoil.

Forbes reports that giant pandas are one of the most endangered species in the world. Only an estimated 1,600 remain in the wild. China maintains over 300 in captivity, mostly in breeding programs that attempt to boost the population. As Ming Ming’s international match-making disappointment shows, breeding giant pandas in captivity is no easy task.

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