Celebrity Giant Panda Chuang Chuang Dies at 19

Chuang Chuang and his 18th birthday treat at Chiang Mai Zoo on Aug. 6, 2018.
Chuang Chuang and his 18th birthday treat at Chiang Mai Zoo on Aug. 6, 2018.

CHIANG MAI — The much beloved giant panda Chuang Chuang died of unknown causes on Monday evening while living in Chiang Mai Zoo, according to an official announcement.

Zoo director Wutthichai Muangmun said the 19-year-old male panda – who at the height of his popularity had a TV show dedicated to him and his offspring – died in captivity at around 4.30pm on Monday. The zoo is conducting autopsies to establish the exact cause of death, he said. A news conference is scheduled for Tuesday.

CCTV footage revealed that Chuang Chuang was walking around his enclosure before he began to limp. He then collapsed. Wutthichai believes that he might have died of old age.

The death came a month after the panda celebrated his 19th birthday on Aug. 6. 

The consulate general said he is mourning the passing of a beloved creature, Chinese state media Xinhua reported. The China Conservation and Research Centre for the Giant Panda will send experts to Chiang Mai Zoo to work with Thai counterparts in finding out the cause of Chuang Chuang’s death, according to the report.

Born in Chengdu in 2000, Chuang Chuang has called Chiang Mai home since 2003, when he arrived with a female panda, Lin Hui, as part of China’s so-called panda diplomacy.

It adopted a Thai name of “Tewan” and a Lanna name of “Kam-ai,” but it remained best known by its native name.

In 2009, the pair gave birth to a child, Lin Ping, the first panda in the world to be born in a tropical country. She has since been sent back to China as part of the lending agreement.

The panda family became a national sensation, drawing thousands of visitors to the zoo. The breakthrough came with the launch of “Panda Channel,” which took the meaning of Panda Watch to a new level by broadcasting their everyday lives on live television. 

Chuang Chuang and Lin Hui were initially due to return to their homeland in 2013, but the government extended the lending agreement for another decade to 2023.

The average life expectancy of a giant panda is around 15-20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity. The oldest recorded panda was Jia Jia, who died at the age of 38.

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