Le Le the Giant Panda dies after 2 decades at Memphis Zoo

Le Le the Giant Panda has died after dazzling visitors at the Memphis Zoo for two decades. The joyful bear was 24.

The panda died early Wednesday morning, the zoo’s chief executive officer, Matt Thompson, said at a news conference on Friday. The cause was not immediately clear.

“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,” the zoo added. “He had an easy-going personality and was a favorite of all who met and worked with him over the years.”

The panda, who arrived at the Memphis Zoo in 2003, died in his sleep, Thompson said. While the death was unexpected, experts said they had no reason to believe Le Le was sick or suffering.

A medical investigation was pending.

Senior veterinarian Dr. Felicia Knightly said the zoo’s veterinary team and a group of panda experts from China would carry out a postmortem examination. She added they are “intent to find a reason for his passing.”

Le Le’s death comes months before he was set to travel back to China. Both he and Ya Ya, a female panda, lived at the Memphis Zoo as part of a loan agreement with the Chinese Association of Zoological Gardens that comes to an end in April.

Thompson said the zoo in turn hopes to welcome two younger pandas in the near future.

With News Wire Services