Panda power: Hong Kong specimen to set world record for longevity

Panda power: Hong Kong specimen to set world record for longevity
A giant panda in Hong Kong will turn 37 this summer, at which time she will break the world record for the oldest panda living in captivity. Though her age is equivalent to 100 human years, she looks “surprisingly good for her years.”

Jia Jia, whose name means “Good” in Chinese, will celebrate her birthday in Ocean Park in Hong Kong, which has a giant panda habitat.

The park staff say they will send an application for Jia Jia to the Guinness Book of World Records after the panda’s birthday. However, her exact date of birth is unknown, as staff say she was captured in the wild back in 1978 in China.

Reuters/Tyrone Siu

If she lives this summer, Jia Jia will “oust” the current record holder – giant panda Du Du who died at the age of 37 back in 1999.

"It is rare for pandas to live to this age," Grant Abel, the park's director of animal care, told Reuters. "It's probably equivalent to someone, a human person, who would be over a hundred years of age."

WWF says the average life span of a panda living in the wild is about 14-20 years, while in captivity they may live up to 30 years.

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Though the ‘old lady’ has severely impaired vision and impaired hearing, Jia Jia’s health is good for her age, according to Paolo Martelli, the park's chief veterinarian.

The panda has arthritis and high blood pressure, which she combats with pills. The 80-kg animal enjoys bamboo shoots, fruit and high-fiber bread.

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Martelli said the first thing he thought when he saw Jia Jia was, “Oh my God, she's so old.”

"But actually it's been 10 years now. And she's had a few ups and downs, but she always manages to bounce back and look surprisingly good for [her] years.”

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The giant panda is one of the most endangered species. Only 1,864 wild giant pandas were counted during a WWF 2014 survey. An adult panda can weigh about 100-150kg and grow up to 1.50m tall. They feed for around 14 hours a day and can eat up to 38kg of bamboo.