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World’s oldest male panda celebrates birthday in SW China

Updated: Sep 22,2015 2:07 PM     Xinhua

Pan Pan is celebrating his birthday in southwest China’s Sichuan Panda breeding center on Sept 21, 2015. [Photo/Xinhua]

Pan Pan, the world’s oldest male panda, celebrated his 30th birthday on Sept 21 in a panda protection center of southwest China’s Sichuan province.

“Happy birthday to you; Happy birthday to you ...” Fans and staff from China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda sang the birthday song for Pan Pan, whose age is roughly equivalent to that of a 100-year-old human, after helping clean up his house in the morning.

A luxury “cake”, a three-tier ice sculpture decorated with carrots, was proudly displayed in the center of Pan Pan’s playground and the aged star gracefully emerged from the privacy of his room to quietly join his party amid raucous cheering.

Always dignified, he circumnavigated his cake, appeared to make a wish, plumped himself heavily on the ground and began to gobble up the delicacies.

“We believe Pan Pan is the oldest male panda in the world,” Wei Rongping, deputy of the center, told guests.

Pan Pan was born in the wild, in Sichuan’s Baoxing county in 1985. He was raised at the center when he was only a few months old.

Pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, but Pan Pan has fathered many cubs over the past 20 years.

“He has more than 130 offspring, accounting for one fourth of the world’s captive-bred panda population,” said Wei.

His famous children include “Tuan Tuan,” who was given as a goodwill gift to Taiwan and Tuan Tuan’s baby “Yuan Zai” who lives in Taipei Zoo.

“A heroic father in the panda world, Pan Pan has contributed a lot to enlarging the captive population,” Wei said.

Pan Pan will spend his remaining years in comfort in the center. The average life of the captive-bred panda is some 20 years. With better protection and care, more pandas will enter their old ages.

“Pan Pan is in good health but with saggy skin and loose muscles. We don’t ignore those aging or ailing giant pandas. We still care for them, love them and try to give them a happy life,” said Wei.

Giant pandas are one of the world’s most endangered species. At the end of 2013, there were 1,864 giant pandas known to be living in the wild in China, an increase of 268 over a 2003 survey. There were 375 pandas in captivity, an increase of 211 from 2003, according to the State Forestry Administration.

Basi, who will turn 35 years old in November, is the oldest female panda.