A 23-year-old panda living in a zoo in the northwestern city of Lanzhou will return to its hometown in southwest China's Sichuan Province due to health concerns, authorities with the zoo said Tuesday.
The panda, named Shu Lan, was born in 1994 in Chengdu, capital of Sichuan Province. Shu Lan first moved to Lanzhou in 1996. She went back to Sichuan and lived in Chengdu and two giant panda research centers in Ya'an City between 1999 and 2016 for research and breeding.
Her current age of 23 is equivalent to about 70 human years.
Shu Lan returned to Lanzhou on April 7, 2016, but her health has aroused public concern as photos of her with an injured back and foaming at the mouth went viral in October 2016 and February 2017.
China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda sent three experts to Lanzhou from March 7 to 9 to evaluate Shun Lan's health and her living conditions in the Lanzhou City Zoo.
After evaluation, experts said Shu Lan is in normal health condition. The foaming at the mouth was caused mainly by her chewing and playing with her tongue. But they also pointed out that Shu Lan's weight has dropped from 103 kg to current 92 kg over the past year since she returned to the city, though it is still in the normal range.
Experts also concluded that Shu Lan has already shown some symptoms of aging.
Giant pandas live mainly in the mountains of northern Sichuan as well as southern Gansu and Shaanxi. According to the latest nationwide survey, there are 132 giant pandas living in the wild in southern Gansu. However, Lanzhou City, located in the middle of the province, has a different environment and climate compared with wild panda habitats.
Heating systems, air conditioners and a humidifier have been installed in Shu Lan's living area in the zoo in Lanzhou. But the zoo's panda habitat was built in 1976 and is too antiquated to accommodate Shu Lan.
The bamboo she was fed was not fresh enough as it was transported from central China's Henan Province. Moreover, the zoo lacks experience in taking care of old pandas.
Experts suggested sending Shu Lan to the China Conservation and Research Center for Giant Panda in Sichuan to help her maintain her health.
The suggestion has been approved by the Lanzhou City Zoo, though a specific schedule has not been released yet. The decision was also confirmed by Zhang Jianlong, head of the State Forestry Administration.` "We will try our best to improve the condition of the zoo," said Lei Qinghai, director of the zoo, adding that the city is planning to move the zoo to a new site for future development.
A national survey released in February 2015 showed that by the end of 2013, China had 1,864 wild pandas and 375 others living in captivity.