According to officials, Le Le, a 24-year-old male giant panda, passed away early this week at the Memphis Zoo.
Following roughly 20 years at the facility, the panda passed away peacefully early on Wednesday, according to Memphis Zoo CEO Matt Thompson, who spoke at a news conference on Friday.
The Memphis Zoo stated in a statement that Le Le’s moniker, which means “happy joyful,” “fully fit his personality.”
The cause of the panda’s demise is yet unknown, Thompson continued. A postmortem examination will be conducted by the zoo’s veterinary staff and a team of panda specialists from China with the “aim to determine the cause of his passing,” according to senior veterinarian Dr. Felicia Knightly.
Le Le’s death was characterized by Thompson as “sudden and unexpected,” and Thompson claimed that camera footage from the days preceding his death revealed no signs of his being ill.
The @MemphisZoo’s other giant #panda, Ya Ya is next door. We’re told by the zoo that as they age, pandas become more solitary in nature. Nevertheless, they say Ya Ya will definitely sense Le Le’s absence. @WMCActionNews5 pic.twitter.com/XSh2NoWxc6
— Parker King (@King_Reports) February 3, 2023
Le Le and Ya Ya, the zoo’s female panda, were scheduled to be sent back to China months after Le Le’s death since the Memphis Zoo’s giant panda loan agreement with the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens expires in April. According to Thompson, the Chinese association was the first to learn about Le Le’s passing.
They have been really helpful to us and are collaborating closely with us on this. Of course, this is a really unfortunate development. They are a fantastic partner and have been really understanding, Thompson continued.
According to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo and Conservation Biology Institute, a giant panda can live up to 30 years in zoos and normally between 15 and 20 years in the wild. The creatures are indigenous to central China and are often scarce globally.
Only 1,864 giant pandas remain in their natural habitat, while another 600 are housed in zoos and breeding facilities around the globe, according to the Smithsonian.
In the future, Thompson anticipates bringing a younger couple of pandas to the Memphis Zoo.