Ya Ya, a giant panda that was on loan from China and living at the Memphis Zoo for two decades, started her journey back to China on Wednesday. The zoo arranged for a veterinarian and zoological officer to travel with Ya Ya to take care of her medical needs and husbandry requirements during the trip. This marks the end of the 20-year loan agreement between the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens Ya Ya in Memphis and the zoo.
Ya Ya was born in Beijing on August 3, 2000, and arrived at the Memphis Zoo with Le Le, a male panda, in 2003. Le Le passed away in February. The zoo held a farewell party for Ya Ya earlier this month, and her departure is deeply felt by the staff and local community. The pandas at the zoo contributed significantly to research and conservation projects and allowed people to experience Chinese culture.
The zoo expressed its sorrow at Ya Ya’s departure in a statement on Wednesday, stating that she had become like family to them during her 20-year stay. They wished her the best in her new home. It is important to note that giant pandas have a lifespan of approximately 15 years in the wild, but they can live up to 38 years in captivity. Due to conservation efforts in the wild and research in captivity, the giant panda population has increased to over 1,800 in both the wild and captivity, saving them from extinction.