Giant panda Ya Ya has returned home to China after spending the last 20 years at the Memphis Zoo. She arrived in Shanghai on Thursday, according to Chinese state media.
In a social media post, the Memphis Zoo shared that the 23-year-old giant panda became family, saying: "She will be sorely missed by the Memphis Zoo staff and the local community. We wish her the best of luck in her new home."
Ya Ya was accompanied by the zoo's senior veterinarian as well as its chief zoological officer on her international trip.
Ya Ya came to the Memphis Zoo with another giant panda, Le Le, who died Feb. 1 at 24 years old. The zoo said, "We saw no indication that would lead us to believe there is anything wrong with Le Le." It also said a recent collapse was Le Le "just being silly," adding that "he acts dramatically" and "was simply lying down." However, organizations In Defense of Animals and Panda Voices have made claims Le Le was neglected and his death was, unfortunately, not a surprise. Those organizations say they reached out to the zoo and the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens about their concerns, to which CZG did respond with a statement. In March, CZG acknowledged the pandas were underweight and suggested Memphis Zoo improve their diets.
The Memphis Zoo has had a partnership with CZG since Ya Ya and Le Le arrived in 2003. Together, they designed the zoo's China Exhibit, which includes the giant panda habitat, and they have continued to ensure the best care for the animals ever since. The zoo announced the end of the 20-year partnership in December, saying "It has been a privilege to host these incredible bears at Memphis Zoo for the past two decades and the impact their culture has had on the City of Memphis will forever be remembered."