China welcomed Ya Ya panda after 20 years abroad

Ya Ya the giant panda landed in Shanghai after spending the past 20 years on loan at the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee.

ByHUIZHONG WU Associated Press

Taipei, Taiwan — Ya Ya, the giant panda, landed in Shanghai on Thursday afternoon after leaving the Memphis Zoo in Tennessee, where she spent the past 20 years on loan.

The journey of the popular panda was closely followed on the Internet.

People have shared screenshots that follow Ya Ya’s flight path to Shanghai. “Finally home!” one user cheered in response to the news. Others called for live coverage of the arrival, which was reported by Chinese state media and featured in four of the top 10 topics on social media platform Weibo. The image of Chinese broadcaster Phoenix News was particularly popular among Chinese social media users. It showed Ya Ya relieving herself before the trip and leaving her poo as a gift to the zoo.

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The zoo held a farewell party for Ya Ya in early April and said the panda will be missed. His departure marks the end of a 20-year loan deal with the Chinese Association of Zoos.

Ya Ya was born on August 3, 2000 in Beijing. She lived at the Memphis Zoo with Le Le, a male panda born on July 18, 1998. Le Le died in February.

Giant pandas have a life expectancy of about 15 years in the wild, but have lived up to 38 years in captivity.

In early 2023, after a 20-year loan deal ended without renewal, allegations of neglect and abuse spread on Chinese social media, along with pictures of Ya Ya with discolored and stained fur.

The Memphis Zoo said in a statement that the panda’s quality of life was not affected by the condition of its fur, noting that monthly reports were made to the Chinese Association of Zoos about the panda’s health. According to the statement, “Ya Ya also lives with a chronic skin and hair condition that is inherently related to her immune system and is directly affected by hormonal fluctuations.”

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A veterinarian accompanied Ya Ya to attend to her medical needs on the way to Shanghai, the zoo said.