iPanda News

The story of the world’s oldest living giant panda and her Chinese keeper

01-02-2019 11:04

Over the course of 21 years, Xin Xing the giant panda has grown from a young beauty to the world’s oldest living giant panda, while her keeper at southwest China‘s Chongqing Zoo, Zhang Naicheng, has grown from a young man to someone old enough to be called “uncle.” Though over two decades have passed, Zhang still wants to take care of Xin Xing and grow old with her, a WeChat account of Chinanews.com reported on Dec. 19.

Xin Xing is now 36 years old, which is the equivalent of about 100 in human years. “Though she has already lost many of her teeth due to old age, she still has a good appetite and is in good health,” said Zhang, disclosing that Xin Xing has always been able to sleep well and enjoy her food, which is probably the secret behind her longevity.

Zhang and Xin Xing first met in 1992, when Xin Xing gave birth during an unusually hot summer. Since there was no air conditioner in the zoo at the time, Zhang was employed by Chongqing Zoo to carry ice blocks to the giant panda house for the whole summer.

“I didn’t have direct contact with Xin Xing then, because I always carried the ice into the house when she wasn't looking,” said Zhang.

Zhang became Xin Xing's keeper in 1997, and has taken care of her every day since. In the beginning, Zhang was scared of Xin Xing, but now, he pampers her like she was his child.

Although giant pandas look charming, Xin Xing has never been adorable or placid, disclosed Zhang, revealing that Xin Xing is the only giant panda in Chongqing Zoo that needs to be closed in behind two locks while her cage is being cleaned.

According to Zhang, Xin Xing likes eating apples and is usually given one whenever she has concentrated feed. “If she doesn't get her apple when she expects to, she throws her food tray to the ground. On one occasion, she destroyed a food basin made of stainless steel with her teeth”, said Zhang, adding that though giant pandas look cute, they still have somewhat of a brutish nature, as they are wild carnivores.

Asked what to do if attacked by a grown giant panda, Zhang laughed and said “in that case, I advise you to run in an “S” shape path to escape.”

Zhang takes care of Xin Xing much like you would take care of a person. “Giant pandas can understand human body language,” said Zhang, who spends about seven hours with Xin Xing every day.

“I want to continue looking after her and help her to live to at least 40 years old. We can grow old together, and make her the longest living panda,” said Zhang.