Zoo wants to extend panda contract with China - FOX13 News, WHBQ FOX 13

Zoo wants to extend panda contract with China

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MEMPHIS, Tenn. (FOX13) -

Memphis Zoo administrators are hoping Ya Ya and Le le, two giant pandas on loan from China for nearly 10 years, can stay in the Bluff City a little while longer.

The zoo is working on renegotiating with the Chinese government to extend the deal to keep the pandas.

"We're doing everything we can to make sure we're able to keep pandas here long term," said Dr. Andy Kouba,
part of the Conservation and Research Department Team at the Memphis Zoo. "We're very committed to that."

Memphis is one of only four zoos in the nation with giant pandas.

The zoo's contract to display the pandas expires in Spring 2013.

Dr. Kouba said the zoo has made its case to the Chinese government on why that loan should be extended another 10 years.

"We have very high hopes that it's going to be renewed and extended," he said. "The other three zoos have already done through the extension process, and all of them were approved. So we feel very good about it."

As part of the loan, the Memphis Zoo has been studying the pandas and they've attempted to artificially inseminate Ya Ya several times, unsuccessfully.

Ya Ya lost another pregnancy recently.

Renewing the lease with China would continue the breeding efforts.

"We're not giving up hope, we're going to continue to work with Ya Ya and Le Le," Dr. Kouba said. "Hopefully we'll be successful."

The zoo and community have become very attached to the pandas, so Dr. Kouba remains cautiously optimistic that they'll be around for another 10 years.

"There's really only three other zoos besides the Memphis Zoo that have pandas, so it really makes the Memphis Zoo a unique destination for people to come see pandas."

Dr. Kouba said the zoo could hear from the Chinese government at anytime if the lease with the pandas is renewed or not.

If the lease is extended, Dr. Kouba said the zoo will try again with their breeding efforts next year.

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