Pan Pan was a Hero Father and Grandfather, siring over 30 cubs and related to more than 130 pandas. While his contributions are many in terms of helping increase the panda population, Pan Pan also helped lead the way to support Chinese research efforts to study geriatric pandas and how best to care for them. Pan Pan’s legacy will live on through his many offspring and also through his contributions to Giant Panda conservation.
I remember the first time I heard of the legendary Pan Pan and was so honored to have gotten to spend time with him as well as adopt him out of respect for his “life’s work”. This past July, when Pan Pan turned 31 years old, Suzanne Braden, Director of Pandas International, and I made Pan Pan a special birthday cake and were able to spend a few precious minutes with him. He was living a quiet, comfortable life in the geriatric wing of the Dujiangyan Giant Panda Base where he was given the very best of care. He fought a brave battle against cancer but ultimately it won.
While all Giant Pandas are very special, Pan Pan will always hold a special place in my heart. The first time I met him, I was in awe but felt a deep sense of honor, respect and pride. Here was the Hero Father/Grandfather and legend right in front of me – the Father and Grandfather to so many of our beloved pandas, and especially to Tai Shan, my “sweetest of hearts”. After our first meeting, I visited him a few more times during follow-on trips to China, and each time he seemed to me to be the “Consummate Gentleman”, much like Tai’s nickname is the “Courteous Gentleman”. As I stood there with him, I wished I could talk to Pan Pan and ask him about his life as a Giant Panda. He seemed so wise but also playful and sometimes just a little goofy (similar to Tian, Tai and Bei Bei, just to name a few). And I like to think that, when he and Tai Shan were living next door to each other, Pan Pan shared his wisdom and love with Grandson Tai through the howdy window where they would visit each other from time to time. Most importantly, I felt so very humbled and grateful to spend time with Pan Pan.
Dear Pan Pan, we are so sorry that you are gone but are glad that you are free from pain and resting in peace. Your incredible legacy lives on through your offspring and your many contributions to Giant Panda research and conservation. And I will always hold you close in my heart and my thoughts and prayers. You made such a difference in the world Precious Pan Pan and you touched my life and my heart forever. Rest well sweet Pan Pan. The world misses you and so do I.