Urgent Signatures Needed To Help End Pandas YaYa & LeLe’s Suffering At The Memphis Zoo!

International animal protection nonprofit In Defense of Animals (IDA) has teamed up with Panda Voices to call for the immediate retirement of giant pandas YaYa and LeLe. Over 87,000 people across the world have now signed a Change.org petition and In Defense of Animals petition to express their deep concern for the pandas’ welfare.

“Anyone watching the Memphis Zoo webcam can see that these pandas are in crisis,” said Fleur Dawes, Communications Director for IDA. “We’re calling on Memphis Zoo CEO Jim Dean to stop the torture of YaYa and LeLe and send them back to China where they can be nursed back to health, eat suitable food, and live as pandas should.”

YaYa and LeLe have been held captive at Memphis Zoo ever since they were shipped there from China 18 years ago. They are mistreated and visibly distressed, suffering from insufficient bamboo, malnourishment, excessive caging time (10+ hours), skin mite disease, dental problems, and zoochosis — a distressed state of mental health shown through abnormal, repetitive “stereotypical” behaviors.

YaYa is 21 years old, still under the average life expectancy of giant pandas in captivity, which is between 25 and 35 years old, with the record age being 38 years old. She has also suffered four miscarriages after invasive artificial insemination procedures. By 2012, YaYa had already had three miscarriages, yet shockingly, another artificial insemination was performed on her again in the same year.

In August, Beijing Zoo released an official response to address concerns about YaYa that was being raised by Chinese panda fans. Beijing Zoo and the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens (CAZG) recommended that Memphis Zoo address basic panda care, such as feeding her bamboo shoots throughout the year and treating her Demodex mites.

Memphis Zoo has admitted that it lacks bamboo to feed the pandas by requesting public donations to source this basic food need. The zoo has yet to mention YaYa’s skin parasite condition, which she has clearly been suffering from for at least 7 years.

LeLe is 23 years old and also suffers from stereotypical behaviors and dental problems. It is common to see him sitting on a rock, playing with his tongue — a typical sign of mental distress, caused, among other issues, by the lack of enrichment in their enclosures.

Despite this unprecedented level of public concern, the Memphis Zoo remains quiet in engaging with the concerns raised by panda lovers around the world, and have had no dialogue with them.

“We care too much to be silent. Memphis Zoo may keep blocking us on social media and posting updates with old videos and photos, but we will keep asking them to provide proper medical care, enrichment, and nutritious food to the pandas they imprison,” Vera Yevseeva, a representative of Panda Voices, said in a statement. “No other ‘healthy’ captive pandas are so visibly stressed and malnourished, certainly when compared to the numerous other panda webcams provided by other zoos across the world.

“They are in extremely poor condition, and urgent measures are needed. Returning both pandas to China right away is the responsible thing to do for the pandas’ health, and as gratitude for the almost two decades they spent in the zoo,” continued Yevseeva.

According to the organization, Chinese institutions are also facing difficulties in contacting the Memphis Zoo. “Weekly since March, a member of Panda Voices has contacted Beijing Zoo and Shanghai Zoo, the owners of YaYa and LeLe, respectively. Both zoos complained that they rarely get a positive response from the Memphis Zoo,” Yevseeva added.

Additionally, Memphis Zoo has failed to answer Freedom of Information Act requests for all medical reports for YaYa and LeLe, in addition to all medical, veterinary, and necropsy reports for seven Grant’s gazelles who died last winter, and African elephant Tyrzana who was tragically euthanized in September 2020.

Memphis Zoo is ranked #8 on In Defense of Animals’ list of the 10 Worst Zoos for Elephants in North America.

“Memphis Zoo cannot sidestep public accountability forever,” said Fleur Dawes with IDA. “We are determined to end all suffering and preventable deaths at Memphis Zoo, and get justice for animals who have died there. We urge members of the public to keep up the pressure by signing and sharing our petitions.”

Watch video footage of YaYa and LeLe HERE!

Members of the public are urged to take action for YaYa and LeLe’s release below:

  • Change.org petition HERE!

  • In Defense of Animals petition HERE!

Content courtesy of In Defense of Animals. Help them continue fighting for animals, people, and the environment by making a donation HERE!

You can help all animals and our planet by choosing compassion on your plate and in your glass. #GoVeg

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