Meimei, the world’s oldest panda held in captivity, died on July 12. Cause of death was not released. She was 36 — or the equivalent of 108 in human years. The average life expectancy of a panda is 20 to 30 years.
Up until 1985, Meimei lived in the Wolong Natural Conservation Area in the Sichuan province of southwest China. The Wolong Park is the country’s main center for the study and breeding of pandas. Meimei was taken into captivity out of fears she would starve because of a shortage of bamboo.
For the past two decades, she was a popular resident at the Guilin Zoo in the Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous region. Due to her advanced age, however, Meimei suffered from eating difficulties, respiratory tract and lung infection and organ failure.
Giant pandas are threatened by a loss of habitat and poaching. Birth rates among pandas are also notoriously low because they mate for only three or four days a year. In 1989, experts attempted to impregnate Meimei through artificial fertilization, but failed.