Hong Kong (CNN) — An An, the world’s oldest male giant panda in captivity, died Thursday of health problems at the age of 35.
An An was donated to the theme park by the Chinese central government 23 years ago, along with Jia Jia, a woman believed to be the world’s oldest ever giant panda before her death in 2016 at the age of 38.
The pair have been seen by millions of tourists and schoolchildren over the years, many of whom posted their memories of An An online Thursday in photos and videos.
The average lifespan of a panda in the wild is 14-20 years, but they can live much longer in captivity, according to conservationists at the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF).
Pong said An An’s survival above average life expectancy demonstrates the theme park’s continued dedication to giant pandas.
The theme park still houses two other giant pandas – female Ying Ying and male Le Le – which were donated by the Chinese government in 2007.
China has spent half a century trying to increase the population of its iconic animals, creating sprawling panda sanctuaries across several mountain ranges in an effort to save them from extinction.
Giant pandas are notoriously difficult to breed in captivity, but after years of decline, their numbers in the wild have increased in recent years.
In China, pandas are considered an umbrella species, meaning experts believe measures to protect them will help protect other species as well as the larger ecosystem.