The world's oldest captive giant panda has died at the age of 37, which is more than 100 years in human years, her keepers said. Basi's handlers at the Straits Giant Panda Research and Exchange Center in Fuzhou in Southeastern China held an emotional memorial for her on Thursday that was broadcast live from the zoo.
Basi outlived most of her peers by nearly two decades. Usually, pandas in the wild have an average lifespan of about 20 years, but those in captivity generally live longer.
Basi was nothing less than a celebrity in China. Born in 1980, Basi is possibly the most famous panda on the Chinese mainland. She got her name after being rescued from Basi Gorge in Baoxing County of southwest China's Sichuan Province at the age of four or five.
All her birthdays were celebrated with great enthusiasm. On 19 Januray, Basi celebrated her 37th birthday at Strait Panda World in Fuzhou wearing a crown and was seen enjoying her special birthday cake.
In 1990, she was chosen as the model for Pan Pan, the mascot of the Beijing Asian Games. In her early days, Basi was trained to lift weights, ride bikes and shoot hoops by trainers.
In 1987, Basi visited the San Diego Zoo in America and attracted around 2.5 million visitors during her stay over there.
The state television reported live during her memorial on Thursday from the zoo where Basi lived. "With a heavy heart, we solemnly announce today that the original model of 'Panpan', the mascot for the first Asian Games (in China, 1990), and an angel of friendship both at home and abroad, giant panda star Basi died at 8.50am on Sept 13, 2017 at the age of 37," the Straits Giant Panda Research and Exchange Center in Fuzhou said.
Giant pandas are regarded as symbols of China and are highly protected. But they are no longer endangered, following decades of conservation work. They have a notoriously low reproductive rate, a key contributor - along with habitat loss - to their status as vulnerable on the International Union for Conservation of Nature's (IUCN) Red List of threatened species.
According to reports, the black and white bear that symbolises wildlife protection efforts worldwide, was previously classified as endangered.