China welcomes Ya Ya the panda home after 20 years abroad

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 online.

People shared screenshots following Ya Ya’s flight path to Shanghai. “Finally back home!” encouraged a user in response to the news. Others called 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 Weibo social media platform. An image from Chinese broadcaster Phoenix News was particularly popular with Chinese social media users. It showed Ya Ya urinating before the trip and leaving the poop as a gift for the zoo.

The zoo held a farewell party for Ya Ya in early April and said she would miss the panda. His 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 the Memphis Zoo along with Le Le, a male panda who was 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 up to 38 years.

In early 2023, after the 20-year loan agreement ended without renewal, allegations of neglect and abuse circulated on Chinese social media along with pictures of Ya Ya with discolored and spotted 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 they reported the panda’s health to the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens on a monthly basis. According to the statement, “Ya Ya also lives with a chronic skin and coat condition that is inherently linked to her immune system and directly affected by hormonal fluctuations.”

A vet accompanied Ya Ya to attend to her health needs en route to Shanghai, the zoo said.

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