Bad Panda News: World’s Oldest “Kicks Bucket”, While Scottish Loan In Doubt

The world’s oldest panda, born in 1977, has died, reports Global Times:

According to the news from the China Panda Protection Center in Sichuan Province, the 34-year-old Ming Ming, the oldest panda in the world, has died, with the official cause given as old age.

The female panda was rescued in Pingwu county, Sichuan Province in 1977, and sent to Xiangjiang Wild Animal World in Panyu, Guangdong Province on March 31, 1998 ….

In most cases, wild pandas only live for 15 years and captive ones for 22 years on average, according to experts.

In addition, the proposed loan of two pandas to Edinburgh Zoo is under investigation by the Scottish charity regulator, according to The Herald. The agreement was loudly hailed as one of the successes of Li Keqiang’s visit to the UK in January.

The zoo insists the pandas will cost it around £6 million over six years, and it is hoped they will boost the attraction’s flagging fortunes – it lost £1.3m last year and 100,000 visitors – by raising its income by 20%.

However, Animal Concern, which lodged the complaint, said its studies have shown the cost of “renting” the pandas will be at least £10m and questioned the pledging of charitable funds on what has been described as a huge financial gamble ….

Meanwhile, David Towne of the US-based charity the Giant Panda Conservation Foundation, said a study into funding at four US zoos found an average price of around £1m a year to rent a pair of pandas.

Mr Towne said: “The first two or three years usually showed a profit on increased attendance and donations but unless you had a cub, there was a diminishing return by year four and overall a loss over the 10-year period.

“It is not a winner long-term.”

London-based Henry Nicholls, author of The Way of the Panda: The Curious History of China’s Political Animal, said: “It is considered that the going rate is about £300,000 per bear per year, but it costs about £200,000 a year alone to source bamboo to feed them.”

The potent lure of cubs, which Towne notes can prolong the bears’ crowd-pulling power, is illustrated by the fact that the famous Sneezing Baby Panda video on YouTube has currently been viewed 103,375,692 times.

See also ‘Pandas Come With Strings Attached’ for details of the panda’s rise as instruments of soft (and cuddly?) power, and the web of conditions to which host zoos abroad must agree.