China Mourns Death of Oldest Panda

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Basi, the world's oldest captive giant panda, has died, according to her keepers in southeast China.

Basi, whose age equated to about 100 in human years, outlived most of her peers by almost two decades.

During this period, she took center stage, with the mass media churning out over 20,000 articles about her. Journalists then gave Basi dozen of epithets among which were "unique panda", "angel of friendship" and "envoy of peace".

As part of Basi's pampering, she enjoyed spending summers at a £2 million panda retreat high in the hills over Fuzhou and away from the sweltering 85 degree temperatures.

Doctors had spent the last three months trying to keep her alive but she eventually succumbed to liver and kidney failure.

She was something of a beloved star in China and her birthdays were often celebrated with gusto. She was recognised by the Guinness World Records as the world's oldest living giant panda in captivity in August. Basi lived her life without giving birth to cubs.

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Basi was born in a valley in the western province of Sichuan in 1980 and was rescued after villagers found her falling into an icy river.

"She was very talented and liked weight-lifting, riding a bicycle and playing basketball", Xinhua said.

An estimated 1,864 exist in the wild, where they are threatened chiefly with habitat loss, and around 420 others live in captivity in zoos and reserves, the majority within China. The Strait Panda Research and Exchange Centre provides air-conditioning and ice to cool the pandas' living environment. "She did not go to the resort this summer", Chen said.

China is mourning the death of the world's oldest panda, Basi, who attracted millions of visitors during a visit to the United States 30 years ago.

Pandas are considered symbolic in China, and are highly protected.