Pandas Staying At Memphis Zoo

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(Memphis) Good news for animal lovers -- the Memphis zoo gets to keep its two beloved pandas for another ten years.

Memphis leases the pandas from China.

It's probably the one animal you could watch eat all day. It's that cute.

But the bamboo is expensive.

“Pandas are fed almost a hundred pounds of bamboo each per day,” said Matt Thompson, director of animal programs.

The pandas themselves are costly to keep.

“China owns every giant panda in the world,” said Thompson.

The Memphis Zoo just signed another ten-year contract with China, which means Le Le and Ya Ya can stay.

But at what cost?

“It’s half the cost of the original contract so its approximately $600,000,” said Thompson.

Memphis will pay $600,000 for the pandas each year for the next decade, and that's a discount.

The previous ten years, the Memphis Zoo paid $1.2 million to China for the bears.

Even though they are popular, its money the zoo will not be making back.

“Pandas aren`t here for us to make money,” said Thompson. “It's been shown that pandas really aren't a money-making venture.”

Thompson, who oversees the animal collection at the zoo, says having the pandas is more about conservation and education.

“Four zoos in the U.S. have giant pandas, and us being one of those zoos, so its a big honor just to have them here.”

“What’s the best animal at the zoo? I don`t know. Snakes?” said a Caledonia Elementary School student.

A group of third-graders visiting from Mississippi had no idea pandas came with such a price.

“Six-hundred-thousand dollars. That's a lot of money. Is it worth it to have the pandas?” asked reporter Sabrina Hall.

“No,” said all the kids in unison.

If the two pandas have a cub, the new contract states the Memphis Zoo does not have to pay China a yearly fee on that.

However, the cub will have to be returned to China after four years.

In the previous contract, the Memphis Zoo would have had to pay up to $600,000 a year to temporarily keep the cub.


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