Le Le the Giant Panda Dies

Memphis Zoo defends itself from mistreatment allegations
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 4, 2023 1:30 PM CST
Le Le the Giant Panda Dies
A memorial for the panda Le Le, who passed away at the age of 25 Wednesday, is displayed from his enclosure at the Memphis Zoo on Friday, Feb. 3, 2023.   (Patrick Lantrip/Daily Memphian via AP)

Months before he was scheduled to return to China, Le Le the Giant Panda died Thursday at the Memphis Zoo. He died in his sleep with little warning, the Commercial Appeal reports, and zoo officials said the cause of death isn't known. He'd displayed signs of distress days before but resumed eating well after that. "Le Le's name translates to 'happy happy,' and his name perfectly reflected his personality," the zoo posted, adding that he "was a favorite of all who met and worked with him over the years." Le Le, who was moved to Memphis in 2003, was 24. Matt Thompson, zoo president, said that's about in the middle of a panda's life expectancy.

Two groups that advocate for pandas had called for Le Le and Ya Ya, who came at the same time and is still scheduled to be sent to China in April, had complained about the care the two had received in Memphis. The zoo failed Le Le, Brittany Michelson of In Defense of Animals said in a statement. "His health was clearly suffering, yet no recommended changes were made to help him or YaYa," Michelson said, per People. Thompson called the accusations false. "We're talking about two of the most spoiled animals on this planet," he said.

The organizations, including Panda Voices, monitor the animals in their dayrooms on installed cameras. The zoo said the groups have overreacted to what appeared to be Le Le's collapses. "He was known for his silly antics," said Courtney Janney, the zoo's chief zoological officer. Le Le often executed dramatic-looking flops to the ground, Janney said. In Defense of Animals argued that pandas should no longer be exhibited at the Memphis Zoo. (More pandas stories.)

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