Only on 5: Bamboo farm for zoo pandas vandalized - Action News 5 - Memphis, Tennessee

Only on 5: Bamboo farm for zoo pandas vandalized

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(WMC-TV) – Officials believe a teen party is what led to vandalism at the Agricenter's bamboo farm, which is a big source of food for the Memphis Zoo's pandas.

Ya Ya is one of two Chinese pandas at the Memphis Zoo.  She goes through up to 50 pounds of bamboo every day.  Most of what she and the zoo's other panda eats comes from the bamboo farm at the Agricenter.

"This bamboo is grown for the pandas at the zoo," said Agricenter International President John Charles Wilson.  "This is their food source."

But officials believe a bunch of teens had little respect for the pandas when they destroyed part of the area during an apparent party last weekend.

"Tore the ground up, ran over the irrigation system, and then built a fire in the middle of the bamboo," said Wilson.

Wilson said the fire could have easily gotten out of hand.  Beer cans and bottles are among the other evidence left behind.  There are even used condoms on the ground.

A broken irrigation control panel may be the most costly thing to repair.

"Around $6,000," said Wilson.

Signs warning of the consequences of off-road driving are all around the Agricenter's property.  There are plans to add more of those and surveillance cameras as well.

Wilson said the gloves are off.

"It's a terrible situation and we're cracking down on it," said Wilson.  "I'm going to prosecute and continue to prosecute."

We're told investigators have some pretty good leads about the teens suspected of doing the damage.  One of them left some school materials behind and even a W-2.

The Memphis Zoo released this statement:

"While the Memphis Zoo is saddened by the vandalism that has taken place at the Agricenter, the bamboo supply for the Zoo's animals is well intact. The supply at the Agricenter, as well that of other local sources of bamboo, ensures the world-class care the Memphis Zoo's pandas."

Copyright 2013 WMC-TV. All rights reserved.

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