The sudden deaths of 5 meerkats on the Philadelphia Zoo this month have shocked zookeepers and officers, and a dye used to mark the animals is likely to be accountable.
The meerkats, two males named Ari and Kgala and three females named Lula, Nkosi and Nya, had been siblings and arrived on the zoo in 2013, mentioned Rachel Metz, the zoo’s vp of animal well-being.
The three feminine meerkats died on June 1, one of many males died on June 3 and the opposite male died on June 12. Not one of the meerkats had skilled any severe well being points earlier than, a zoo spokesperson mentioned.
The deaths got here as a shock to zoo officers, who mentioned they’d by no means had points with the dye up to now.
“This can be a dye we had efficiently used for 30 years, and clearly one thing modified right here,” Ms. Metz mentioned. “We’re making an attempt to determine that out. We now have a fairly strong inner and exterior fact-finding course of we’re going by means of.”
An in-house necropsy, an post-mortem for animals, confirmed indicators that the deaths may have been associated to an ink used to mark small animals for identification. Zoo employees members despatched samples of the animals to the College of Pennsylvania College of Veterinary Drugs for additional toxicology stories to substantiate the reason for the deaths, however outcomes may take weeks, mentioned Ms. Metz.
Because the meerkat deaths, the zoo has ceased utilizing the dye on small animals like titi monkeys and lemurs, Ms. Metz mentioned. Workers members have shifted to utilizing different strategies of figuring out animals, reminiscent of tags and screens. It is usually working with the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums, a nonprofit and accrediting group, to tell different zoos concerning the deaths in case they’re utilizing the identical dye.
The mysterious nature of the deaths has taken a toll on the zoo’s employees members, Ms. Metz mentioned.
“Our animal care employees usually spend extra time with the animals on the zoo than their very own households at dwelling and their very own pets,” she mentioned. “There’s a actual bond between the employees and the animals, and clearly they’re devastated by this.”
The Philadelphia Zoo homes animal well being care services and participates in quite a few conservation efforts, together with one for golden lion tamarins.
Meerkats, slender-tailed creatures with pointy faces, are members of the mongoose household and are native to Botswana, Mozambique, South Africa and Zimbabwe. They sometimes reside in giant packs referred to as mobs, which may comprise dozens of people. They exhibit sociable and animated habits, which was documented on “Meerkat Manor,” a well-liked Animal Planet tv present that ran from 2005 to 2008.
Meerkats are additionally recognized for his or her teamwork when trying to find meals and searching for predators in addition to for sheltering in intensive underground tunnels.
There are not any remaining meerkats left on the zoo, Ms. Metz mentioned, however officers plan to work with the Associations of Zoos and Aquariums to deliver them again finally. There may be at the moment no timeline for when this may occur, she mentioned. Meerkats have lately been born at zoos in Miami, Tucson, Ariz., and Chattanooga, Tenn.