(ECNS) -- Ya Ya, female giant panda that has lived in the United States for two decades, returned to Shanghai boarding a homeward-bound plane on Thursday.
She needs to undergo quarantine for inspection in Shanghai for around 30 days first according to regulations.
Ya Ya was born at the Beijing Zoo in August 2000. As an envoy of friendship, Ya Ya, along with giant panda Le Le, arrived at the Memphis Zoo in April 2003.
The Memphis Zoo announced in December 2022 that it would return Ya Ya and Le Le to China, concluding 20 years of cooperative research on time.
Unexpectedly, in February 2023, the 25-year-old giant panda Le Le passed away. After the autopsy jointly conducted by the Chinese and U.S. experts, heart disease was initially determined as the cause of its death.
As Chinese netizens mourned for Le Le , they discovered that the condition of Ya Ya was not very good. Unlike the plump and furry giant pandas, Ya Ya was thin with fur loss.
In February, a Chinese expert group arrived at the Memphis Zoo to check Ya Ya's health. According to their evaluation, a skin disease caused hair loss in Ya Ya, but she had a good appetite, normal excrement, and stable weight.
But there still has been a growing expectation in China for Ya Ya’s return.
A veterinarian and a keeper from the Beijing Zoo reached the Memphis Zoo in March to get familiar with the breeding, nursing conditions of Ya Ya.
“The overall condition of the giant panda is relatively stable except for the fur condition caused by skin disease. The Chinese side has already made preparations to welcome Ya Ya home in terms of quarantine sites, living quarters, feeding plans, medical care and feed supplies,” Chinese FM spokesperson Wang Wenbin said at a press conference on April 11.
Hundreds of people said goodbye to Ya Ya on April 8 at her farewell event at the zoo ahead of her return to China. Many U.S. netizens have expressed their missing to Ya Ya.
“Ya Ya will be so missed and I know she will miss what has been home for many years. I wish Ya Ya a safe journey,” a netizen wrote.
“That makes me sad. Ya Ya is part of our family. Safe travels sweet girl,” another said.
“We hope you will have a better life soon... back home with possibility of friendships,” a netizen said.
Ya Ya it’s better to go home to your place, where you will feel a lot of love,” a netizen said.