USA: Farewell party for the panda Ja Ja, returning to China after 20 years

Although giant pandas typically live 25 to 30 years in captivity, many have wondered whether zoo employees in America are neglecting the animals, which are usually considered China's "national treasures."

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Ja Ja, Photo: Reuters
Ja Ja, Photo: Reuters
Disclaimer: The translations are mostly done through AI translator and might not be 100% accurate.

Millions of Chinese watched as staff at a US zoo said goodbye to a giant panda ahead of its much-discussed return home after 20 years.

A farewell party for 22-year-old Ja Ja at the Memphis Zoo was held on Saturday.

She and her male partner Le Leo, who died in February, were closely watched by the Chinese after questions were raised about their treatment at the zoo.

The zoo management has previously dismissed criticism and accused animal rights activists of spreading false information.

The zoo says that Ja Ja has a chronic disease of the skin and fur, which is why her fur "occasionally looks thin".

About 500 people attended the event in the Tennessee city, which featured Chinese cultural performances and farewell letters.

Photos and videos on social media show Ja Ja surrounded by bamboo and given a special iced cake made of grapes, sugar cane and cookies.

Many Chinese watched it live.

"Travel safely Ja Ja. You will be missed by many," reads a comment on the zoo's Facebook page.

"We will miss you, you brought us a lot of joy," the user added on the Twitter account.

But other comments aimed at the zoo were not kind.

"Stop pretending to care, I'm sick of you," read the comment in Chinese.

"Ja Ja lived through a difficult time. Come home - we're all waiting for you," another user wrote.

Ja Ja and Le Le arrived in Tennessee City in 2003 on loan.


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China has long used the so-called panda diplomacy to help strengthen relations with other countries.

But lately, the Memphis Zoo has come under fire from Chinese people who claimed Ja Ja and Le Le were mistreated during their stay.

Criticism followed accusations that the couple suffered from physical and mental illnesses.

The zoo rejected those criticisms.

In the video published last year by the activist group In defense of animals (In Defense of Animals) and Panda Voices (Panda Voices) pandas can be seen spinning in circles.

Activists said the animals had lost fur and weight and asked to be "returned to China before it's too late".

Zoo officials countered that they were "two of the most spoiled animals on the planet," according to the Associated Press.

The zoo's website says: “Ja Ja lives with a chronic skin and fur condition. This condition does not affect her quality of life, but occasionally makes her coat appear thin and thinning. Her condition is being closely monitored by our animal care team and veterinarians."

Weibo

A few months later, the zoo announced that the pandas would be returned to China as the agreement with the China Association of Zoos expired.

Reuters reports that the decision has nothing to do with pressure from animal rights advocates.

But anger has resurfaced in China after the death of 25-year-old Le Le in February.

Although giant pandas typically live 25 to 30 years in captivity, many have wondered whether zookeepers in America are neglecting the animals, which are usually considered China's "national treasures."

Such comments were intensified due to the deteriorating relations between the two countries, primarily due to diplomatic and trade disputes.

The Chinese started pressuring the authorities on social media to influence Ja Ja to return to China earlier.

Many posted slogans and pictures on various billboards across China.

Some Chinese living in America even flew to Memphis on their own initiative to visit and "take care of Ja Ja".

However, after Le Le's death, Chinese experts went to America and together with American colleagues determined that he died due to heart disease.

They also examined Ja Ja and found that he has a good appetite and a stable weight, except that he is losing hair due to skin problems.

According to Chinese media reports, Ja Ja is scheduled to return to China by the end of this month.

On Tuesday, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Ya Ya was relatively stable, except for the loss of fur.

"China will bring Ya Ya home safely as soon as possible," he added.

But that didn't stop other netizens from asking more questions, including whether China could go beyond "panda diplomacy."

"When will we be strong enough that we won't need pandas to be our ambassadors," reads a comment that has been liked more than 100 times on the Chinese platform Weibo.

"We shouldn't be sending any more pandas to the US," reads another.


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