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Friday, February 20, 1998 Published at 15:19 GMT

World: Asia-Pacific

Old black eyes bows out

Qiang Qiang, one of the longest-living pandas in captivity, is reported to have died in China, aged 30.

The Xinhua News Agency says Qiang Qiang died of old age, on January 28, at a panda breeding centre in Chengdu, Sichuan province.

She had been taken to the centre earlier in the month for expert care.

Qiang Qiang never gave birth and began showing signs of senility at age 20, the average life span for a panda.

"She ate very little and became languid, and one of her eyes suffered from cataracts," said one of her caretakers at the zoo in the city of Shenyang, where the panda was kept for 22 years.

Zookeepers began preparing special concoctions of carrots, eggs and rice gruel spiked with vitamins and bee pollen to revive Qiang Qiang's appetite. Bamboo leaves were brought in by plane from her native Sichuan, 1,600km (1,000 miles) to the south-west.

Qiang Qiang's body has been taken back to Shenyang. Xinhua did not say if the move was for burial or display.

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