An An, world’s oldest male giant panda, dies in Hong Kong at age 35

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Hong Kong (CNN) – Ann, the world’s oldest male giant panda in captivity, died on Thursday at the age of 35 due to health complications.

The panda was euthanized to prevent further suffering. of Hong Kong Ocean Park said in a statement. Park chairman Paulo Pong said his “ingenuity and playfulness” will be sorely missed.

An An theme park was gifted 23 years ago by China’s central government with female Jia Jia, believed to be the world’s oldest giant panda, before she died in 2016 at the age of 38.

The pair have been seen by millions of tourists and schoolchildren over the years, many of whom posted their memories of NN online Thursday in photos and videos.

Pandas have an average lifespan of 14-20 years in the wild, but can live longer in captivity, according to wildlife conservationists World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).

Pong said Ann’s survival beyond the average life span shows the theme park’s ongoing commitment to giant pandas.

The theme park still has two other giant pandas – female Ying Ying and male Le Le – who were gifted by the Chinese government in 2007.

China has spent half a century trying to boost the population of its iconic animals, creating panda reserves spanning several mountain ranges in an effort to save them from extinction.

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Giant pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, but after years of decline, their numbers in the wild have increased in recent years.

In 2017 the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) upgraded the species from “Endangered” to “Vulnerable” as their population had increased by about 17% over the previous decade. That move was mirrored by the Chinese government last year Wild giant panda population has increased to 1,800.

In China, pandas are considered an umbrella species, which means experts believe measures to protect them will help protect other species, as well as the wider ecosystem.

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