Ocean Park announced the passing of a celebrated life of 38-year-old Jia Jia, the world’s oldest giant panda to have lived under human care.
Jia Jia was observed to be rapidly deteriorating in recent two weeks, with her food consumption sharply declining from over 10kg to less than 3kg per day, and her average weight dropping from 71kg to around 67kg. Over the past few days, she has been spending less time awake and showing no interest in food or fluids. Her condition became worse this morning, Jia Jia was not able to walk about without difficulties and spent the day laying down. The medical management was limited to avoiding pain and distress. Her state became so debilitated that based on ethical reasons and in order to prevent suffering, veterinarians from the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department and Ocean Park agreed to a humane euthanasia for Jia Jia. This decision is also consistent with the approved euthanasia policy of the Park and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). Dr. Paolo Martelli, Director for Veterinary Service, Ocean Park, performed the procedure at about 6pm today at Jia Jia’s den in the Hong Kong Jockey Club Sichuan Treasures (HKJCST).
Leo Kung, Chairman of Ocean Park, said, “This is a day we knew would eventually come, but it is nevertheless a sad day for everyone at the Park, especially for the Park’s keepers who took care of her over the years. Since Jia Jia arrived Hong Kong with An An in 1999, she has been educating the public about the importance of wildlife conservation and she was loved by visitors from around the world. We are very grateful toward the Central China Government for gifting Jia Jia, An An, Ying Ying and Le Le to Hong Kong, allowing more people to see these lovable animals in person and learn more about giant panda conservation. Jia Jia was 20 years old when she first arrived in Hong Kong together with An An. The duo were residing at the HKJCST together with 6-year-old female golden monkey Le Le and 5-year-old male golden monkey Qi Qi, who are also from Chengdu. Jia Jia and An An were hugely popular - more than 29 million guests have visited them since their first day at Ocean Park. Jia Jia was a member of our family who had spent 17 wonderful years with Hong Kong people, and she will be deeply missed. We also want to thank Jia Jia for all of the wonderful things she brought the people of Hong Kong and our visitors from around the world, as she was a true ambassador of conservation and educational messaging.”
Suzanne Gendron, Executive Director, Zoological Operations and Education of Ocean Park, said, “With the passing of Jia Jia, we are deeply saddened but appreciate the time we have been privileged with her. Her advanced age was a remarkable accomplishment and a testament to the dedicated care and attention she received from the keepers and veterinary staff.”
“Since the arrival of An An and Jia Jia 17 years ago, the Park’s panda-related educational programmes have remained the most popular among guests and students. Of the over 846,000 students that benefited from courses offered by the Ocean Park Academy, Hong Kong, about 20% attended one of the five giant panda related courses that we offer for levels ranging from kindergarten to secondary school. Through making recycled paper out of giant panda faeces or learning about the rebuilding of a bamboo corridor in their natural habitat, students have come to realize that ‘endangered species like giant pandas and red pandas could eventually go extinct if we did not engage in conservation’ and that ‘protecting the environment starts with us’. Ocean Park also offers a number of panda-related guest programmes, including a behind-the-scene tour and an Honorary Panda Keeper programme whereby guests can learn how the Park cares these animals. Jia Jia had dedicated her life to educate the public about the importance of wildlife conservation and she was deeply loved by visitors from around the world. We will share a video made in memory of Jia Jia on our official YouTube channel and establish a memorial corner outside the HKJCST starting from 22 October for guests to pay tribute to their beloved animal ambassador.” Gendron added.
The Government of the Hong Kong Special Administrative Region (HKSAR) and China Conservation and Research Centre for Giant Pandas in Wolong were notified of Jia Jia’s passing.
Dr. Wang Chengdong, Director of Veterinary Service of Wolong, said, “We would like to thank Ocean Park’s keepers and veterinary staff for their continuous professionalism and commitment to the giant pandas. The average life expectancy of the species is below 20 years in the wild, and they can live up to around 20 years under human care. Jia Jia’s longevity is a result of Ocean Park’s ongoing efforts in providing best-practice of care to the giant pandas. We hope that Ocean Park's team will soon recover from their grief. We extend our deepest sympathy to the Park and people of Hong Kong during their grief at the passing of Jia Jia.”
Born in the wild, the female giant panda Jia Jia was rescued in Sichuan Qingchuan in 1980 and resided at the Giant Panda Breeding Centre at Wolong Nature Reserve. Jia Jia was calm and gentle by nature. Jia Jia was presented to HKSAR in 1999, together with An An, as gifts from the Central Government.
Currently, Ocean Park’s younger pandas Ying Ying and Le Le, who are both 11 years old, are in good health, while 30-year-old An An, the world’s second oldest male giant panda under human care, receives treatment for geriatric conditions such as high blood pressure and arthritic pain. The Park’s animal care team will continue to offer An An exemplary care to ensure he enjoys the highest quality of life in his sunset years.