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Last Updated: Wednesday, 13 July, 2005, 15:23 GMT 16:23 UK
World's oldest captive panda dies
Well-wishers place flowers by Mei Mei's body
As news of Mei Mei's death spread, well-wishers paid their respects
The world's oldest captive panda has died in a Chinese zoo at the age of 36.

Mei Mei, who had eating difficulties and suffered serious organ failure in her old age, lived for the equivalent of 108 human years.

She died in Guilin Zoo in southern China, where she had lived for the last 20 years, prompting visitors to place flowers and cards by her body.

There are only an estimated 1,600 wild pandas left in China's central forests, and some 120 in captivity.

"She had entertained numerous visitors from both home and abroad, and remained the most popular animal in the zoo throughout her stay here," zookeeper Chen Qian said in comments carried by China's Xinhua news agency.

With the average lifespan of a giant panda standing at 25 calendar years, officials estimated that Mei Mei lived almost 50% longer than her expected life span.

New arrivals

Mei Mei moved to Guilin in 1985 from China's Wolong giant panda centre in Sichuan province.

Baby panda triplets born in 1999
At birth, giant pandas look fragile and weak
On the same day that Mei Mei died, officials at Wolong announced the birth of a pair of giant panda twins - the second such births this summer.

Guo Guo's twins were born five days after Ying Ying gave birth to twins.

Birth rates among giant pandas are notoriously low because they only mate for three or four days each year.

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