Ling Ling, the male giant panda at Ueno Zoo in Tokyo, died of chronic heart failure early Wednesday at age 22 years and seven months, equivalent to about 70 human years, the zoo said.
“He was lying on his back as he died, giving the impression that he had lived a full life,” Ueno Zoo director Teruyuki Komiya told a news conference. “It was a peaceful death and it did not look like he had suffered.”
According to the zoo, Ling Ling was the fifth oldest male among pedigree-registered pandas in the world.
Ling Ling, born in the Beijing Zoo in 1985, was the only giant panda in Japan that belonged to the nation. There are a total of eight pandas in the country, but they all belong to China.
He was given to Ueno Zoo in 1992 in exchange for a panda born in Japan to commemorate the 20th anniversary of the normalization of bilateral ties. With Ling Ling’s death, Ueno Zoo is left without a panda for the first time since October 1972, when the first two pandas were brought there from China.
He died just after the zoo withdrew him from public view on Tuesday at the start of the Golden Week holiday season, explaining he had suffered decreased heart and kidney functions due to old age and would be undergoing intensive care.
Due to heart failure, about 37 liters of fluid had accumulated in his abdominal cavity and he was suffering from internal bleeding.
His condition started to deteriorate last August and he had been on medication since September, the zoo said.
A sign letting visitors know that Ling Ling had died was put up in front of the zoo’s main gate. Many people stopped to read it, and some even called friends and family to let them know about the panda’s death.
“I knew that the panda died when I arrived here. It is sad,” said Rumi Saito, 35, who was visiting the zoo from Saitama Prefecture with her family. “I was surprised because I thought he would get better with treatment.”
“I came here last month to see the panda. It is really sad as my son really liked the panda,” a visitor from Ibaraki Prefecture said.