Thailand’s beloved giant panda at Chiang Mai Zoo dies at 21 years old

Lin Hui | Photo via Chiang Mai Zoo

Famous female giant panda Lin Hui passed away at Chiang Mai Zoo in northern Thailand this morning at the age of 21 years old. The beloved panda brought joy to the Thai nation for over two decades.

The panda’s cause of death is awaiting confirmation from Chiang Mai Zoo. Reports say that Lin Hui fell ill and displayed “abnormal symptoms” yesterday.

After her male partner Chuang Chuang died in 2019, Lin Hui was the only giant panda remaining in the kingdom.

Lin Hui was born on September 28, 2001, at the Chiang Panda Research and Conservation Centre in Chengdu, Sichuan province, China. She arrived at Chiang Mai Zoo with Chuang Chuang in October 2003 on a 10-year loan from China, set to return home to China later this year.

Lin Hui and Chuang Chuang’s daughter Lin Bing was born at the zoo in May 2009, becoming the first-ever giant panda born in Thailand and one of the few giant pandas born in captivity outside of China. Lin Bing returned to China when she was two years old.

Over the years, Lin Hui became the star attraction at the zoo and was well-adored by Chiang Mai locals and Thai people everywhere, many travelling to the zoo just to catch a glimpse of the giant pandas. She even won an award for having a great personality based on votes from panda fans from all around the world.

Lin Hui’s partner Chuang Chuang died suddenly in his enclosure in September 2019. He ate a meal of bamboo leaves, stood up not long afterward, and collapsed, officials said.

In September last year, celebrations at Chiang Mai Zoo for Lin Hui’s 21st birthday drew crowds from all over Thailand to the zoo. The Chinese Consulate-General in Chiang Mai wrote a special message thanking the zoo for its efforts in taking care of Lin Hui for nearly two decades. She said that Lin Hui’s stay at the zoo indicates a strong relationship between Thailand and China.

At her 21st birthday party, the zoo’s director Wutichai Muangman said that Lin Hui was in good health and was closely monitored by a veterinary team. He said the giant pandas drew in more than 7.4 million visitors to the zoo since 2003.

Giant pandas are notorious for their low sex drive and are among the world’s most endangered animals. Their average life expectancy ranges from 15 to 20 years in the wild and up to 30 years in captivity.

The death of Lin Hui is a great loss to Thailand, China and giant panda lovers all over the world.

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Leah is a translator and news writer for the Thaiger. Leah studied East Asian Religions and Thai Studies at the University of Leeds and Chiang Mai University. Leah covers crime, politics, environment, human rights, entertainment, travel and culture in Thailand and southeast Asia.