The First Brown Giant Panda Found in the World, Dan Dan

Dan Dan

Dan Dan (Female)
Rescued from the wild at Foping, Shaanxi province, China in 1985
Moved to Xi’an Zoo

There are five brown giant pandas have been reported around the whole world, and the fifth one is the Qi Zai, who are very famous for his brown hair.

Qi Zai

Today, we are going to introduce the first brown panda Dan Dan, who was found by the local rangers.

Dan Dan

The person who found Dan Dan was named Lu Guoyou. On March 28, 1985, when he was patrolling with villagers, he found Dan Dan at the river of Foping County, Shaanxi Province. The sick panda Dan Dan looked restless, who was flapping the bamboo leaves with her paws. After a while, she staggered and rolled on the ground with pain.

Professor Pan Wenshi was tracking giant pandas in Qinling. He rushed to the site when he heard the news. Dan Dan was dying.

Dan Dan was found at Foping

It was confirmed that the panda’s fur was brown by Dr. Pan. That was different from other pandas with black and white fur. The researchers thought it was some dirt stuck on the panda’s fur, but Dr. Pan checked her carefully, and the truth was that she did have the brown hair! Dr. Pan took a rare picture of Dan Dan by his camera.

The panda was surrounded by Pan’s students. A student tried to touch Dan Dan’s fluffy ear with his hand, and Dan Dan yelled and hit him back with the front paws. Then, the panda tried to crawl away with the heavy breath, and she went in the bush and tried to crawl over a rock. However, she was too weak to keep going. So she turned back to the students and sat down without strength. Dan Dan kept her eyes on the students.

Dr. Pan sat down and looked at the panda from few meters away, and he was thinking that the panda was so amazing with a pretty face and the brown hair. What made the panda so special was that her brown eyes, which looked like a brown cat’s nose, lip and fur.

Dr. Pan pass Dan Dan some bamboo leaves, when she calmed down. But she pushed them away, and buried her head into the arms with the back arching highly. This is how the panda to tell other that he/she was angry or agitated. Dr Pan checked the panda again when she buried the head, and he found no black fur on her body. Dan Dan is a 100% brown panda bear!

What Dr. Pan see made him very excited, and this was a unique precious animal!

Dan Dan 

At that time, people knew little about the diseases of giant pandas, and there was no suitable medicine on hand. But people realized that methods must be taken quickly to relieve the panda’s suffering and protect her from the cold weather at night. The lads in the village picked up dry wood and lit a bonfire for Dan Dan. Everyone took turns to take care of Dan Dan, and protected her away from wild dogs and other animals. The staff on duty regularly recorded clinical symptoms such as breathing so as to make a correct diagnosis of the diseases.

They prepared sugar and milk for the panda, but Dan Dan knocked everything over without drinking. Faced with the help, the panda became more and more vigilant. Dan Dan had no idea about why people feeding her, and she was very nervous. Then, Dr. Pan realized that it is necessary to make the panda to trust them.

Dr. Pan asked everyone to stay away from the panda as far as they can, and left two of students to get close with Dan Dan step by step. The students whispered to Dan Dan when they were 1 meter away. The bamboo was split with a candy in the middle. The students put the candy into Dan Dan’s mouth gently. 

The panda chewed the candy. Then, the students pass Dan Dan the sugar water with spoon. The panda was very clever, and she grabbed the spoon to drink the milk and sugar water. When her life was at stake, people provided nutrients for the panda. But there was another problem that Dan Dan didn’t eat bamboo. 

The next morning, people went to the mountain to figure it out that the reason Dan Dan refused to eat bamboo. From the bamboo stubs he had eaten and his feces, it was found that the panda has lost the ability to select tender bamboos and the bamboo leaves in the feces are extremely poorly digested. Usually, the giant panda would choose the tender bamboo leaves but Dan Dan indiscriminately snapped off the bamboo stems at every age.

The feces of a healthy panda are wrapped in masses of intestinal mucus. The bamboo leaves of this panda's feces were scattered on the ground. Besides, her feces contained a lot of water and undigested bamboo leaves——she might have enteritis. Pan Wenshi's team examined a large number of roundworm eggs in the stool under the microscope, proving that the roundworm was continuing to consume the nutrients. Maybe this was why the panda looked so thin and weak.

With the experience of feeding sugar with bamboo poles, the students did the same. Every 3 hours, they would sandwich two oxytetracyclines between the bamboo poles and deliver the medicine to Dan Dan’s mouth for relieving the symptoms of enteritis. Soon, the staff and doctors of the reserve arrived, and Dan Dan was carried to the town. The giant panda was getting better and was getting used to living with humans. After being transported to the Sanctuary, the roundworm in Dan Dan’s belly disappeared and her weight rose from 120 kg to 165 kg.

Dan Dan 

Dan Dan’s name was give by Professor Pan. “Dan” is a homophonic of “Single" in Chinese, which means Dan Dan was a unique panda. “Dan" refers to “red”, and which indicated that the panda had brown hair.

On May 8, 1985, Dan Dan settled in Xi'an Zoo, and she attracted lots of visitors to zoo

Everybody was looking forward to see what does Dan Dan’s child look like, since she was the first brown panda found in the world. Would the cub look like Dan Dan with brown fur?

In April 1986, Dan Dan mated with Wan Wan and gave birth to twins on September 13 of that year, but the cubs did not survive. In 1989, Dan Dan mated with Wan Wan again. On August 31, Dan Dan gave birth to a healthy baby boy named Qin Qin with black and white hair.

Dan Dan was mating with Wan Wan

Dan Dan and her baby Qin Qin

Qin Qin

Qin Qin

Qin Qin

On September 7, 2000, Dan Dan died of skin cancer.

In 1990s, Dan Dan was getting old (the average life span of a giant panda is about 30 years), and she had problem with digestion. In 1995, Dan Dan was in a bad condition with weight loss. Dan Dan rarely had some bamboo leaves, and she needed ice to keep cold at summer. In winter, Dan Dan lost appetite without exercise, which was not a good thing to learn.

In summer of 1997, Dan Dan hardly stood up and had meals. Then, some experts were called to consulted for Dan Dan, who was getting better.

In 1999, Dan Dan was partially blind. The zoo took a great care of Dan Dan and used the best medicine to relieve her pain. But her body was getting weak day by day.

On May 8, 2000, the keeper Wu Shuqin found some lumps around Dan Dan's anus, and Wu reported to the veterinary. On May 12, the veterinary of zoo consulted with relevant experts from the Dermatology and Oncology Department of Xijing Hospital, and the initial diagnosis was squamous cell carcinoma. On May 15th, the zoo held an emergency meeting and made detailed preparations for Dan Dan’s biopsy on the next day. Dan Dan was decided to fast for a while by the zoo to ensure that she can receive a biopsy with the empty stomach.

Dan Dan suffered from cancer in May. Her abdomen and lungs were inflamed, and she was accompanied by fluid accumulation. Dan Dan had symptoms of convulsions, the duration of convulsions was getting longer and longer, and the interval was getting shorter and shorter. The zoo applied the best treatment on Dan Dan, but she seemed not get better.

Dan Dan was rescued by the doctors

On September 1, Dan Dan convulsed all day and couldn't eat anything. She was extremely weak and laid down in the enclosure. The veterinary rescued her for twice. Dan Dan had oxygen in her nostrils for 24 hours, and this was how she sustain the life. More than a dozen staff of the zoo kept watching Dan Dan’s condition closely. Several zoo experts from the northwest region who were meeting in Xi’an rushed to the zoo.

At around 9 o'clock in the evening on September 6, Dan Dan suddenly quickened her breathing and opened her mouth wide. The keeper and veterinarian who had been stayed with Dan Dan rescued her immediately.

At 12 am on September 7th, the doctor put medicine into Dan Dan’s mouth. At 2:05am, the veterinary gave her the medicine again. From 4 am to 9 am, Dan Dan breathed faster and faster, and her heartbeat kept accelerating. At 10:30am, the heartbeat reached 74 beats per minute.

At 10:35am on September 7, 2000, Dan Dan, who had fought the illness for more than three months, finally stopped breathing and left us forever.

The zoo was quiet, while Dan Dan’s son, Qin Qin, who stamped his feet around the enclosure

Dan Dan lived in this world for 29 years. Five years after Dan Dan passed away, on November 22, 2006, Qin Qin died of severe pulmonary congestion and edema at the age of 17.

Some details of Qin Qin before his death are clearly remembered in the staff's notebook: At 10:00 on November 21, Qin Qin was playing with tires in the yard; At 18 o'clock, Qin Qin had some carrots and panda cake; At 0:30am on the 22nd, Qin Qin had some bamboo; at 1:30am, drinking and defecation; At 3:30am, rested in bed and breathing normally; At 8:37am, it was discovered that Qin Qin had stopped his heartbeat, the stool was normal. There was no trace of struggling, and the lying position was no different from normal.

After Qin Qin passed away, the keepers was really sad and cried in front of the empty enclosure

The keeper who spent 13 years taking care of Qin Qin wailed on the ground

After Dan Dan, the brown pandas were found in the wild in Foping in 1990, 1991, and 1992, and all of them disappeared in the forest. Except the famous one, Qi Zai, who was found in 2009.

Qi Zai

As the rare individuals of the giant panda, the brown panda is related to genetic or geographic factors. Scientists have not yet found the exact cause, and we look forward to solving this mystery one day.


Please leave you ideas in the comment section. Your supports will keep us going :)