The World’s Oldest Animals, From Hanako the Japanese Fish to Lin Wang the War Elephant

By: Justin Nobel | Date: Mon, January 7th, 2013

Lin Wang served in the Chinese Army during World War II and later lived at the Taipei Zoo, where he became a national celebrity.

Scientists may have found a creature that lives forever.

Lin Wang served in the Chinese Army during World War II and later lived at the Taipei Zoo, where he became a national celebrity.

Lin Wang served in the Chinese Army during the 1940s and later lived at the Taipei Zoo, where he became a national celebrity.

It is none other than a jellyfish, according to a recent New York Times article, or, more specifically, the “immortal jellyfish”, known to biologists as Turritopsis dohrnii. This tiny organism has the amazing ability to grow old then go backwards and grow young again, only to reach its infant stage and begin the cycle anew. Theoretically, under the right conditions, an immortal jellyfish truly can live forever. This got me thinking about what other famous long-lived animals were out there…

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Hanako the Koi (ornamental Japanese fish), 226 years old – Koi came from carp, a group of large freshwater fish found across Central Europe and Asia. They were aquacultured as a food fish as early as the fifth century BC in China. Romans ate farmed carp and so did early Christians. About 1,000 years ago, in China, people began to breed carp for color. Selective breeding of the Prussian carp led to the goldfish. During the nineteenth century, in a small town on the northeastern coast of Japan’s Honshu Island, carp were bred for a variety of bright colors like red and white. The resulting fish were called koi. In 1914 koi were exhibited at the annual exposition in Tokyo, they were a huge hit. Koi ponds developed across the country. But taking care of koi is tough work. Ponds are designed to maintain a certain range of temperatures and also must have deep sections and overhangs to give the very un-camoflauged koi room to escape predators like herons, otters and raccoons. The typical koi lives for 30 or 40 years but when the koi named Hanako died in 1977 he was supposedly 226 years old.

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Lin Wang the Elephant, 84 years old – Lin Wang was used by the Chinese army during the second Sino-Japanese War, in the early 1940s. On the long march back to China many elephants died. By the time the survivors arrived in Guangdong the war had ended. Lin Wang became a sort of elephant-for-hire. He helped build monuments for Chinese war heroes and performed in a circus to raise money for famine relief in Hunan province. Eventually, Lin Wang and the other remaining war elephants were sent to zoos. Lin Wang went to a park in Guangzhou, and later to the Taipei Zoo, where he met his lifelong mate, a female elephant named Malan.

Zoo keepers adored Lin Wang and he became the most popular animal in Taiwan. In 1983, the zoo threw a birthday party for his 66th birthday. The event became an annual tradition, attended by thousands of visitors. In early 2003 Lin Wang developed arthritis in his left hind leg. He started to lose appetite, and other health problems followed. By the end of February Lin Wang was dead. He was 84. His memorial service lasted several weeks. Thousands of Taiwanese visited the zoo, leaving cards and flowers. The mayor posthumously awarded Lin Wang “Honorary Taipei Citizen”. A Taiwanese animated film about the elephant’s life is currently in production.

Cookie the Cockatoo, 79 years old (and still going..) – Cookie was hatched in 1933, part of the Taronga Zoo, in Sydney, Australia. A year later he was transferred to the Brookfield Zoo, near Chicago, Illinois where he has remained to this day. In 2007, Cookie was diagnosed with osteoporosis. He is now on a special calcium-rich diet to enhance his bone strength and takes anti-inflammatory medication and vitamin supplements to help foster joint health. Bird nutritionists believe the seed-only diet Cookie was fed for 40 years—before zoo keepers properly understood his species’ dietary requirements—was inadequate. About three years ago Cookie was retired from exhibition and placed in the keeper’s office of the bird house. He still makes public appearances for his birthday every June. “We know Cookie’s retirement may be a disappointment to his many fans,” the curator of birds at the zoo recently told the press. “But we feel him being off exhibit is best at this time in his life.” Come June, if Cookie is still alive, he will have outlived the life expectancy of the average male human by five years.

One thought on “The World’s Oldest Animals, From Hanako the Japanese Fish to Lin Wang the War Elephant”

  1. kdh

    Hanako has been debunked, big time. More junk that people keep repeating on the internet. This article did not do there home work. But this is the new norm on the inter net.

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