An estimated 1,864 exist in the wild. One of them, called Basi, was the oldest in captivity, very popular, and just died. Basi was suffering from a number of ailments, including liver and kidney problems, when she died Wednesday at age 37. Giant pandas are generally considered old after reaching 20 but can live for many more years in captivity, where they can be treated for diseases and shielded from accidents. China is now mourning her death.
Her body is to be preserved and placed in a museum dedicated to her life because she was unique. “She was very talented and liked weight-lifting, riding a bicycle and playing basketball,” the official Xinhua News Agency said Thursday. Her life was enough interesting to justify this special treatment. Born in the wild in 1980, Basi was discovered by villagers after falling into an icy river in the western province of Sichuan at age 4 and sent to the breeding center in Fuzhou. She made a then-rare visit to San Diego in the United States in 1987, where she drew more than 2 million visitors during a 200-day stay accompanied by fellow panda Yuan Yuan. She was also the model for the mascot of the 11th Asian Games, held in Beijing in 1990.