Memphis Zoo pandas Ya Ya, Le Le to return to China

December 22, 2022 GMT

MEMPHIS, Tenn. (AP) — The Memphis Zoo says its giant pandas will be heading back to China within the next few months.

The zoo says 22-year-old Ya Ya and 24-year-old Le Le will return after two decades in Memphis under a giant panda loan agreement that is ending with the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens.

The zoo says the pandas were key to research and conservation projects and helped people experience some of Chinese culture.

“It has been a wonderful 20 years fostering this relationship with Ya Ya, Le Le, and the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens and we look forward to continuing this partnership in the future,” the zoo said in a statement.

The advocacy group In Defense of Animals applauded the return of the animals, saying they had been suffering in the zoo setting. Zoo officials have said the pandas are healthy and well taken care of, with as much as they want to eat.