Call to get back unwell giant panda Ya Ya from Memphis Zoo

Xu Yiwen Wang Qingchu
Chinese netizens are demanding the return of Ya Ya, a female giant panda on loan to the US zoo, due to her poor health.
Xu Yiwen Wang Qingchu

Chinese Internet users have been calling for the immediate return of Ya Ya, a female giant panda on loan to the Memphis Zoo in the United States, three weeks after her male counterpart Le Le died of an unknown cause at the age of 25.

According to a volunteer who frequents the Memphis Zoo, Ya Ya is suspected of malnutrition, diarrhea and zoochosis, in addition to extensive skin disorders. Panda fans have been posting the most recent images and videos of Ya Ya and Le Le before his death.

Call to get back unwell giant panda Ya Ya from Memphis Zoo
Imaginechina

Ya Ya rests in her habitat at the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee in this October 18, 2020 file photo.

Ya Ya is set to return in April after her loan agreement expires on April 7. Ya Ya and Le Le joined the Memphis Zoo in 2003 and have been the zoo's stars ever since.

However, there have been health concerns. In 2021, the advocacy group In Defense of Animals launched a petition in which the pandas are described as "mistreated and visibly distressed."

Ya Ya "has had four miscarriages following invasive artificial insemination procedures, has an ongoing skin mite infestation, and is extremely underweight," it said. The statement demanded that the Memphis Zoo return them to China.

Call to get back unwell giant panda Ya Ya from Memphis Zoo
Imaginechina

An underweight Ya Ya is seen eating bamboo at the Memphis Zoo on October 18, 2020.

Call to get back unwell giant panda Ya Ya from Memphis Zoo
Imaginechina

A file photo of the giant panda Le Le at the Memphis Zoo on March 12, 2021

As early as January 3 this year, the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) said that it was in talks with the US to bring the pandas back as soon as possible because Ya Ya and Le Le had reached old age and Ya Ya had skin diseases.

A person familiar with the situation said that veterinarians and animal-keeping experts from the CAZG have left for the United States to handle Ya Ya's return procedures.

On February 4, a spokesman for the Chinese embassy in the US said that Chinese experts would travel to the United States to investigate Le Le's death.

Le Le was from the Shanghai Zoo, while Ya Ya is from the Beijing Zoo.

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