A beloved treasure of the Ueno Zoo in Tokyo died yesterday. Ling Ling, the panda who became an ambassador of goodwill of sorts, and a world traveler looking for a mate had heart failure. In human years, Ling Ling was 70. In panda years, 22.
Now the zoo is without a panda, and Ling Ling was without offspring. He was flown to Mexico three times to give him a chance to procreate. He also spent spent some time in the National Zoo in Washington, D.C according to this Smithsonian magazine article, I found. Most importantly, he was part of the peace agreement with China in 1972. People in Tokyo are broken up over the news and are leaving flowers and notes at Ling Ling’s cage.
The Ueno Zoo is hoping to get pandas on loan at least. Unfortunatly, it’s not like there are many pandas to go around–only 1,600 of them live outside of zoos. Their native environment is in China in Sichuan and Shaanxi provinces. [see AP article]
Devra G. Kleiman, the author of the Smithsonian article, spent a long time studying pandas, both in the wild and in zoos, and provides a detailed account of their habits and habitat, including mating habits which may explain why Ling Ling never got lucky in love with pandas. In people love, he hit pay dirt.