People get excited when the Memphis Zoo announces the birth of a new animal, but this weekend, the buzz is over a milestone birthday. Le Le, the giant panda, is turning 20 years old.
“It is a little further up there since giant pandas usually live 25 to 35 years in captivity, so he is getting older, but he’s not geriatric yet,” says Ish Ganame, an animal keeper who works in the China exhibit at the Memphis Zoo.
Le Le (pronounced “luh-luh”) and Ya Ya have been fan favorites at the zoo for years. They have their own traditions, including when Le Le correctly picked the Eagles to beat the Patriots in the Super Bowl earlier this year. Ganame says he understands why there’s so much fascination with these unique creatures.
“They’ve got a lot of personality, the things that they like to do,” Ganame says. “Le Le, especially, likes scents. Sometimes we’ll give him cloth with a scent on it. It’s fun to watch him sniff it and rub it all over himself.”
The public is invited to be part of Le Le’s birthday celebration on Saturday, July 28th, and everything is free with your general admission to the Memphis Zoo. Festivities start at 11:00am with a keeper chat where you’ll get to learn some fun facts about giant pandas.
“They have the most powerful bite of all bears. Stronger than grizzly bears. Stronger than polar bears. Which makes sense when you realize they’re eating what we make floors out of all day, every day,” says Ganame.
There will also be a panda book reading and coloring for kids around noon. The party is expected to kick into high gear that afternoon, probably between 1:00pm and 2:00pm, depending on Le Le.
“Whenever he wakes up is when we’ll really get going. We’ll have “cake”. It will all be Jurassic Park themed. He may get some visitors in his room there. I don’t want to give too, too much away, though,” says Ganame.
You will also be able to leave a personal message on a present for Le Le located at the giant panda exhibit.
Le Le’s 20th birthday celebration at the Memphis Zoo
WHEN: Saturday, July 28th
WHERE: The China Exhibit
COST: FREE with general admission to the zoo
SCHEDULE: 11:00am – Keeper chat
12:00pm – Panda book reading and coloring for kids
1:00-2:00pm (When Le Le wakes up) – “Cake” and presents for Le Le