MEMPHIS, Tenn. — Memphis Zoo announced Friday, Feb. 3 that giant male panda Le Le died at 25-years-old.
There is a pending medical investigation, but no cause of death has been determined, the zoo said.
Le Le, whose name translates to "happy happy," was born on July 18, 1998, and he was brought to the Memphis Zoo in 2003.
“Le Le’s name translates to ‘happy happy,’ and his name perfectly reflected his personality,” the zoo said in a statement. “Le Le was a happy bear that enjoyed apples, engaging with enrichment and relaxing while covering himself with freshly shredded bamboo. He had an easy-going personality and was a favorite of all who met and worked with him over the years.”
Le Le was expected to return to China soon with female panda Ya Ya as a loan agreement ended with the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens.
The life expectancy of a giant panda in the wild is about 15 years, but in captivity they have lived to be as old as 38. Decades of conservation efforts in the wild and study in captivity saved the giant panda from extinction, increasing its population from fewer than 1,000 at one time to more than 1,800 in the wild and captivity.
The advocacy group In Defense of Animals has applauded the return of the animals, saying they had been suffering in the zoo setting. Zoo officials have said the pandas are healthy and well taken care of, with as much as they want to eat.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.