Parallel Lives

Filed in Stress Busters

It’s exactly a week since Mei Mei, the adult female giant panda at Adventure World in Japan, passed away. Her death was mourned by panda lovers all over the world; many were shocked by what they felt was an untimely death, as she was only 14 (the equivalent of 56 human years).

Only a month before her death, panda lovers celebrated the birth of her grandcubbies by her daughter, Rauhin, who also lives in Adventure World.

Mei Mei herself had 10 cubs in her short 14 years. Besides Rauhin, there were 2 older cubs born in Chengdu, China before moving to Japan. Rauhin, the eldest of her Japan born cubs, was followed by 7 others, including her last pair born in December 2006.

Many of our cherished images of Mei Mei show her playing with her cubs. Among all panda mothers, she holds a special position for being the only one who could look after both cubs in all her twin births without the help of her keepers.

Birth and death – the circle of life that we humans experience, too. Panda lives may not mean much to most people beyond the “oo’s” and “aa’s” when they see a picture of a cute cubbie, but they mean the world to those of us who have chosen to let these black and white furballs into our hearts. Their circle of life often parallel ours and impact us in the same way. We celebrate their births and mourn their deaths as if they are beloved members of our own families. Which, in a way, they are.

Earlier this year in July, we mourned the death of Shi Shi, a venerable old gentleman bear who’d fathered Hua Mei. Shi Shi was in his 30s and was retired and living out his twilight years in Guangzhou Zoo, China. His time had come and we said goodbye to him.

It was different in Mei Mei’s case. Many of us felt she died too soon. As we were to learn, she had been ill, and although she was thought to have recovered, she had a relapse from which she did not survive.

We mourn Mei Mei, but we also thank her for having left us 10 beautiful cubs.


Mei Mei (giant panda)
31 August 1994 – 15 October 2008

External Link:
Panda Family, Adventure World, Japan

(edited on Friday, 24 October 2008 at 17:07 to add the following)

We’ve also mourned the untimely loss of Mao Mao in the May 12 earthquake, which I completely forgot in my original post.

While Shi Shi died from old age and Mei Mei through ill health, Mao Mao’s death was untimely. Three beloved bears, three different ways they left us.