SHIRAHAMA, Wakayama -- Male giant panda Eimei at a zoo in this west Japan town was treated to his favorite bamboo sticks and an ice block to celebrate his 29th birthday on Sept. 14.
Eimei was born at Beijing Zoo in China in 1992, and was sent to Adventure World in Shirahama in 1994. As a father to 16 children born at the facility between 2001 and last autumn, he is the world's oldest giant panda in captivity to produce offspring through natural breeding. He also has 23 grandchildren and three great-grandchildren. Despite being nearly 90 years old in human terms, he apparently has stayed healthy, eating 15 kilograms of food a day with a full set of 42 teeth.
As giant pandas are vulnerable to the heat, he spent summer indoors. On his 29th birthday, six types of bamboo shoots were prepared at an outdoor playground for fussy eater Eimei. He walked around the enclosure after consuming a little bit of the bamboo, perhaps because he felt awkward being outside for the first time in about three months or because he did not like the bamboo.
Zookeeper Yuka Shinagawa, 39, commented: "In contrast to Eimei, his mate Rauhin has a strong personality. Eimei is gentle, which may be a reason for him having many offspring. We want him to live long without suffering from any major diseases."
(Japanese original by Yukihiro Takeuchi, Tanabe Local Bureau)