Beijing: China on Friday kicked off birthday celebrations for the country’s oldest panda who will turn 35 years old in November, the age-equivalent of a 100-year-old human.

“Basi is the oldest living panda in mainland China,” said Chen Yucun, head of a panda research and exchange centre in Fuzhou, Fujian province, where she lives.

The average life of the wild giant panda is 15 years.

The celebrations include making animated films about Basi, paintings, promoting scientific knowledge about giant pandas in schools, organising seminars and selecting “panda ambassadors” among the public, Xinhua news agency reported citing Chen.

Basi is possibly the most famous panda in China. In 1990, she was chosen as the prototype for “Pan Pan”, the mascot of the Beijing Asian Games. The panda star was born in Baoxing county of southwest China’s Sichuan province.

In 2000, her health began to worsen. She was found suffering from hypertension and cataracts, Chen said.

But she survived and became the first panda in the world to successfully have a cataract removed from her eye.

“She also has dental problems, so we cut bamboo shoots into smaller pieces and feed her healthy tea and albumen powder every day,” said Shi Feining, one of Basi’s breeders.

“Her illnesses provided key information for panda disease prevention,” said Chen, who hopes to encourage more people to protect wildlife like pandas through these celebrations.

Giant pandas are one of the world’s most endangered species. According to data released by the State Forestry Administration, there were 1,864 giant pandas living in the wild and 375 in captivity by the end of 2013. 

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