Ya Ya “will return to China within the next few days,” according to Xinhua News Agency’s story on Tuesday, which was based on information from the National Forestry and Grassland Administration of that nation. The decision was made in response to protests from the animal welfare advocacy organizations In Defense of Animals and Panda Voices, who had demanded that Ya Ya be sent back to her home “before her health worsens.”
Some onlookers said that images and videos of Ya Ya looked to reveal that she was thin and had a skin condition. She was allegedly acting strangely and repetitively as well. The loss of Ya Ya’s partner, Le Le, in February had been attributed by the watchdogs to the Memphis Zoo. Le Le’s death, according to In Defense of Animals at the time, demonstrated the zoo’s “utter inability to properly care for giant pandas.”
The Memphis Zoo, however, has categorically denied any allegations that either animal was mistreated. Ya Ya is described as having “outgoing” and “quirky” traits on the official website, which also claims that she “enjoys hanging out with her keepers at any time of the day.”
Before Le Le passed away in December of last year, the zoo made a statement stating that both animals will be sent back to Shanghai after a loan program was finished. Ya Ya has been prepared for the trip, which is anticipated to take place before the end of April.
Since 1972, when Beijing presented two pandas to Richard Nixon, the president of the United States, the city has engaged in “panda diplomacy.” Pandas are now on loan to 18 other nations from China, the only place where they can be found living in the wild.
Expert in geopolitics Matthew Fraser said Beijing often uses panda loans to build goodwill or support a trade agreement. He said earlier this month to the New York Times that “when China takes back a panda, it is usually because the regime is very displeased for some reason.”
Washington and Beijing’s relationship is still tight because of Taiwan. The island is seen as a province that broke away from China and is now a part of its independent territory. Although the US has maintained its informal connections with Taipei, it acknowledges Beijing’s ‘One China’ policy internationally.