Giant panda Pan Pan sits near a frozen cake during its 30th birthday celebration at the China Conservation and Research Center for the Giant Panda in Dujiangyan, China, Sept. 21, 2015.
VCG—VCG via Getty Images
By Kevin Lui
December 30, 2016

The world’s oldest male panda died earlier this week, survived by over 130 descendants living in zoos around the world.

Pan Pan, dubbed a “hero father” of pandas, died Wednesday in China’s Sichuan province, according to the China Conservation and Research Center for the Great Panda, where he lived for most of his life. At 31 years of age, Pan Pan lived to be the panda equivalent of over 100 human years old.

Born in the wild in 1985, he was rescued and brought to the Sichuan facility at two months old, reports Chinese newspaper Huaxi City Daily. CNN reports that, when he was young, Pan Pan was known for his strength and agility.

His virility proved vital in growing the world’s panda population. According to the Huaxi City Daily, Pan Pan was one of only four males capable of natural mating during the late 1980s and early 1990s. Since first becoming a dad in 1991, he had fathered even more direct descendants, until old age took him out of breeding duties, reports CNN.

The resulting family, totaling over 130 pandas, now populates zoos across the world, according to CNN — anywhere between Washington and Taipei, and even as north as Edinburgh.

Reports suggest that Pan Pan’s lineage now makes up a quarter of all the pandas living in captivity around the world. Notable offsprings include Bai Yun, currently residing in California’s San Diego Zoo, as well as Hua Mei and Tai Shan, both born in U.S. facilities and subsequently returned to China.

As the Panda Research Center’s official Weibo account wrote, Pan Pan’s health had deteriorated for the past year because of cancer, before taking a final turn for the worse around three days before his death. Earlier this year, the world’s oldest panda in captivity, a female named Jia Jia, had passed away in Hong Kong’s Ocean Park.

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