|Monday, November 29, 1999||
Volume 65, Issue 68
Nandagiri on coaches
Ed De La Garza
Farewell Hsing-Hsing, farewell
Hsing-Hsing, the 28-year-old giant panda presented to President Richard Nixon by Mao Tse Tung in 1972, died Sunday morning. Hsing-Hsing suffered from kidney disease, prompting zoo keepers at the National Zoo in Washington, D.C., to put the panda to sleep.
Ling-Ling, Hsing-Hsing's female denmate (and co-present) of 23 years died of heart failure in 1992. Though the two mated, they were unable to produce cubs capable of surviving past five days.
Hsing-Hsing received a final meal consisting of a blueberry muffin, yams, rice broth and bamboo. The decision to euthanize the animal came after the panda's health had deteriorated over the past three days. The panda was lethargic, nearly blind and beset by severe arthritis.
As of Sunday, the panda exhibit was still open to visitors. Schoolchildren, unaware of Hsing-Hsing's passing, left get-well notes for the panda, who according to McKinley Hudson, the National Zoo's deputy director, was not the same "Hsing" his keepers and visitors remembered.
As many as 75 million people may have gone to the National Zoo to visit Hsing-Hsing and Ling-Ling. There are now only five remaining giant pandas in the United States -- two at Zoo Atlanta and two with a cub at the San Diego Zoo.
We can look at Hsing-Hsing's death as meaning nothing more than any other animal's death. The panda, however, was a symbol.
One, it was a symbol of goodwill -- an olive branch of sorts from China. Relations between the United States and China were always dicey. But Hsing-Hsing remained as a sign that the two countries could put their differences aside.
Hsing also served as a representative for all endangered species. Nobody cared about whether or not some slimy insect became extinct, but everybody cared about pandas.
Hsing-Hsing may have been a "big dumb animal," but he was special to those who visited him. Hsing will be remembered for what he stood for -- uneasy relations between two superpowers, and our ability to forget our differences -- as well as for those adorable eyes.