27 April 2023

China welcomes Ya Ya the panda home after 20 years abroad

27 April 2023

A giant panda has landed in China after leaving a zoo in the US, where she spent the past 20 years on loan.

Ya Ya’s trip was closely followed online.

People shared screenshots tracking the animal’s flight path into Shanghai.

“Finally back at home!” cheered one user in response to the news.

Others asked for a live broadcast of the arrival, which was reported by Chinese state media and claimed four of the top 10 trending topics on the social media platform Weibo.

An image from Chinese broadcaster Phoenix News was particularly popular among Chinese social media users.

It shows Ya Ya relieving herself before the trip – and leaving muck as an apparent gift for keepers.

Memphis Zoo in Tennessee held a farewell party for Ya Ya earlier in April and said it will miss the panda.

Her departure marks the end of a 20-year loan agreement with the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens.

Ya Ya was born on August 3 2000 in Beijing.

She lived at Memphis Zoo along with Le Le, a male panda born on July 18 1998.

Le Le died in February.

The life expectancy of a giant panda in the wild is about 15 years but in captivity they have lived to be as old as 38.

Earlier in 2023, after the loan agreement ended without renewal, allegations of neglect and abuse circulated on Chinese social media alongside pictures of Ya Ya with her fur discoloured and patchy.

Memphis Zoo said in a statement the panda’s quality of life was not affected by her fur condition, noting they reported monthly to the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens about the panda’s health.

The statement said: “Ya Ya also lives with a chronic skin and fur condition which is inherently related to her immune system and directly impacted by hormonal fluctuations.”

A veterinarian accompanied Ya Ya to care for her health needs on the way to Shanghai, the zoo said.

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