Giant panda Le Le has died, the Memphis Zoo announced Friday.
Le Le was born July 18, 1998, and died Wednesday, zoo spokesperson Rebecca Winchester said in an email. The cause of death is undetermined as a medical investigation is pending, the zoo explained.
“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’s peaceful death as he slept was “sudden and unexpected” with no indication that he was sick, zoo President and CEO Matt Thompson said at a news conference Friday.
“We are absolutely devastated,” Clemenson said. “Our fight continues. We will investigate as best we can.”
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.