Video of ‘skinny’ giant panda at US zoo sparks calls to return to China

On Wednesday, a netizen posted a video on Chinese Twitter Sina Weibo claiming that one of the giant pandas at the Memphis Zoo in the US state of Tennessee looks too skinny. Responding to concerns raised by netizens, a Chinese expert said it’s hard to tell a panda’s health status from a video alone.

According to the zoo blog, in 2003, two pandas, Le Le and Ya Ya, arrived at the Memphis Zoo.

In her post, the netizen notes that I Am looks “pathetically weak” and wonders if the zoo has enough fresh bamboo shoots to feed the pandas.

When the video went viral, it caused great concern among Chinese netizens who called for the pandas to be relocated to China.

Netizens also asked if the giant panda’s living area is well maintained, if they are fed according to Chinese standards, and if zookeepers interact with them.

In response, a member of the China Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) shared that at 22 years old, Ya Ya was considered an elderly panda and additionally suffered from a skin disease and was therefore not in good health.

Diao Kunpeng, panda expert and director of Beijing-based Qingye Ecology, agreed with CAZG’s assessment, telling the Global Times on Thursday that Ya Ya’s strange fur color in the viral video was due to his advanced age.

“Whether she has other health problems can be confirmed by a medical examination. We can’t conclude from one video,” Diao continued.

CAZG, a national industry association made up of community organizations and related entities that care for and support zoos at the National Zoos and Aquariums, said it was in touch with the Memphis Zoo and confirmed that there were no issues regarding the living conditions of the pandas. , be it food or living space.

The Memphis Zoo is one of only three zoos in the US where giant pandas live.

According to an article fromMemphis Business Magazineas of May 2019, a lease extension signed in 2013 allows pandas to remain at the zoo until 2023.

The Memphis Zoo is currently closed to the public, but according to the WMC news channel, the zoo is expected to reopen on Saturday with new protocols.

Between two pandas, Le Le seems healthier. On January 12, the zoo released a short video of a male panda enjoying a day in the snow. The zoo last posted a Z-Z video on its blog in May 2014.

On Tuesday, the zoo released another video of its team collecting bamboo shoots for Le Le and Ya Ya to eat.

In a Memphis Zoo blog post, Beth Roberts, the zoo’s senior biologist, said she sent samples to China containing Le Le’s genetic information. These specimens are collected every few years during the breeding season and frozen in liquid nitrogen at -196 C° where they can be stored for up to 10 years.

Their Frozen Zoo bank currently holds Le Les specimens dated 2007–2019.

At press time, neither the Memphis Zoo nor Ms. Roberts had responded to requests for comment.

This is not the first time Chinese netizens have expressed concern about a panda at a US zoo. Another giant panda, Mei Xiang, who lives at the Smithsonian’s National Zoo in Washington, D.C., is also in an advanced age, which has also sparked concern among Chinese netizens and calls for her return.

Hashtags such as “saving Mei Xiang” and accusations that “Washington Zoo doesn’t take good care of Mei Xiang” surfaced on Weibo in late November 2020 after some netizens posted videos that they said showed that the panda suffers from stomach pains. and convulsions after eating ice cream on 19 October.

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