(MEXICO CITY) — A 27-year-old giant panda died in Mexico City’s Chapultepec Zoo this weekend, reducing the country’s panda population from three bears, to two.
Xiu Hua — whose name means Dandelion — died from natural causes, according to Mexico City environmental officials, who explained that she passed away on Saturday night after the zoo closed.
She was one of several pandas born and raised in the Chapultepec Zoo, the first place outside of China to successfully breed this species in captivity.
Xiu Hua’s death sparked a series of messages of condolence on Twitter this weekend, as well as a few sarcastic jokes from users who tried to connect the panda’s death to Mexico’s social problems.
Xiu Hua’s death was not much of a surprise to zoo officials, however, who said that at nearly 28 years old, she was one of the oldest pandas in captivity in the world.
According to the San Diego Zoo, which also houses pandas, these bears have a lifespan of around 14 years in the wild, and up to 30 years in captivity.
Mexico’s Chapultepec Zoo now has two giant pandas left. They’re named Shuan Shuan and Xin Xin. Both are already “old pandas” in their twenties, but scientists working in the zoo have said that next year they will try to artificially inseminate Xin Xin, who is currently 23.
If Xin Xin manages to give birth, she would continue to sustain a dynasty of Mexican born pandas that dates back to the early ’80s.
The first pair of “Mexican” pandas arrived in Chapultepec Zoo in 1975 as a gift from China. Their names were Pepe and Ying Ying, and they had several cubs together, including the recently deceased Xiu Hua.
Copyright 2013 ABC News Radio
Lorenzo D'Agostino and Hilary Clarke, CNN
Euan McKirdy, Bryony Jones and Barry Neild, CNN
Marisa Russell, CNN