Giant panda Su Su was rescued on May 16, 1986 in Mabian county, Sichuan province, and transferred a few days later to the Chengdu Zoo. It is believed that she was born circa 1983, making her approximately 30 years old. She is one of five tricenarians in the captive panda population.
Due to the lack of public education concerning giant panda conservation in die 1980’s, the farmers who discovered Su Su thought that she was an Asiatic black bear. In efforts to shoo her away, one of the dinners grabbed her tail and she turned around and bit his foot, other members of the inning village who participated in the effort to scare her away were also injured, one very seriously. As a result, the farmers decided to shoot her, but it was lucky for this three-year-old bruin that someone realized that she was not an Asiatic black bear, but a giant panda that was to be protected as a national treasure. Immediately the locals called the Forestry Administration to rescue her, and they kept her in a cage for three days until she was taken to live at the Chengdu Zoo. She was named Su Su after the town in where she was found.
In March 1987, Su Su became extremely ill and her keepers feared she would die. It seemed that her body functions had shut down as she suffered from a variety of illnesses including, respiratory arrest, hypoxia, cerebral edema, failure of reflexes and renal functions. Yet she fought back and after more than 48 hours of intense treatment by a variety of physicians (specialized panda veterinarians were few in the 1980s), Su Su’s vital signs began to stabilize and three months later she was fully recovered.
In June 1987, Su Su and another panda, Chuan Chuan, were loaned to the Hilvarenbeek Zoo in the Netherlands where they lived for three months, returning to Chengdu in September 1987. In 1988, Su Su went to live at the Chengdu Research Base of Giant Panda Breeding where she gave birth to five offspring, a pair of stillborn twins on August 9, 1991, male Ke Bi in July 26,1992, and twin females Shu Lan and Mei Mei on August 31, 1994. Only Ke Bi and Shu Lan survive today. Mei Mei became a hero mother while living at Adventure World in Japan, but died prematurely of an intestinal obstruction in 2008 at the same location.
Su Su was loaned to the Shanghai Wild Animal Park from 2004-2006 and to the Suzhou Zoo from 2008-2010. In 2010, she returned to live at the Chengdu Zoo, and today she lives at the Chengdu Panda Base.
Although Su Su gave birth to only three surviving pandas, her genes have been abundantly passed on through her son Ke Bi, who sired eight offspring, seven of which are still alive. Before her death, daughter Mei Mei gave birth to eleven offsprings, and nine survive. Daughter Shu Lan gave birth to two offspring and one survives. Almost all of Su Su’s grandchildren have bred or are of breeding age, and have produced 36 great-grandchildren, and one great-great grandson, Si Yi, son of Si Yuan born in 2012.
Su Su should be very proud of her offspring. Ke Bi was born during the 1992 Barcelona Olympics and was named for the Olympic mascot, Coby. Over time he has come to be known as the panda “Kobe Bryant”, after the American basketball player. In 2005 Ke Bi mated with Ya Ya and together they produced female Jing Jing, who became the mascot for the 2008 Beijing Olympics. In addition, Jing Jing was selected by scientists to create a giant panda genome draft map.