A zoo in Memphis has decided to return two giant pandas to China as the loan agreement between the two came to an end.
In a statement on Facebook, Memphis zoo announced that the two pandas Ya Ya and Le Le will make the journey back to China within the next few months as the loan agreement with the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens is about to end.
“Ya Ya and Le Le have been integral parts of the Memphis community for the past 20 years and we are grateful for the time we were able to spend with them. During their time at Memphis Zoo, Ya Ya and Le Le helped pioneer research and conservation projects to teach others about the importance of their species,” the statement said.
“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.”
The zoo also thanked China and the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens.
The move to return the two bears to China comes amid allegations of mistreatment of the animals in the Memphis zoo that had surfaced earlier this year.
In February, the group In Defense of Animals (IDA) released a video online showing the animals pacing around their enclosure and accused the zoo of subjecting them to “physical, mental, and emotional deprivation,” reported the South China Morning Post.
The release of the video received international attention as well as from China with many joining voices with the group to release the pandas.
Pop star Billie Eilish also signed a petition with IDA demanding their release.
However, the zoo had denied allegations of mistreatment.
“We are partnered with the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) who we are in constant communication with regarding the status of our pandas. We report to CAZG monthly sharing the status of husbandry, reproductive, and nutritional information for both bears. These reports include graphs of the pandas’ weights, amount of food consumed and defecated, as well as the enrichment they receive,” the zoo statement was quoted as saying by ABC24.