The Milwaukee County Zoo sadly announced the death of one of its female western lowland gorillas, Naku, on Saturday, April 28.
This is the second western lowland gorilla death in April at the Zoo.
Zoo officials have said all gorillas are now on antibiotics as a precautionary measure, since it’s too early to tell if Naku’s passing is related to Cassius, who died April 12.
Zoo Director Chuck Wikenhauser,
It’s an extremely sad day at the Zoo as we mourn the loss of Naku.
Our extremely dedicated and experienced veterinary, medical and primate keeper staff worked tirelessly together with the hope of bringing Naku through this difficult series of events.
Zoo officials described the chain of events leading to Naku’s passing:
On Friday, keepers noticed Naku appearing more tired than normal, but she was still responsive, and continued to eat and drink.
After 24 hours of non-stop observation and supportive care, the decision was made to anesthetize her for an exam.
According to the Zoo, it was revealed that the source of Naku’s illness was located in her abdomen, so an emergency surgery was then performed by a veterinary surgeon.
Surgery showed that Naku had a necrotic bowel, meaning a portion of the intestine had died, and was no longer functioning.
Because of the location of the affected intestine, removal of the dead portion and re-attachment of the healthy sections was not a viable option.
The animal care staff and veterinary team assessed that Naku would most likely have less than a 10% chance for survival with re-attachment surgery.
Rehabilitative care would have meant extended time under sedation for Naku, resulting in a poor quality of life.
The difficult decision was made that she be humanely euthanized.
She was 17 years old.
Zoo officials have said it’s not known at this time whether Naku’s necrotic bowel was caused by a viral, bacterial or environmental situation.
Due to Cassius and Naku’s unexpected passing, all of the Zoo’s gorillas are now in quarantine, and staff is collecting environmental samples from the indoor Gorilla Exhibit for testing.
The Zoo is working with its pathology and laboratory partners for results of tissue and fluid cultures from both Naku and Cassius.
Full necropsy (animal autopsy) results will be forthcoming and will help determine if there is a link between the cases.
Officials have said the priority for the Zoo’s animal care staff is to work closely with the family group, in addition to monitoring the health and emotional well-being of the entire troop.
Keepers have given Zahra, Naku’s 8-month-old offspring, visual access to both Shalia and Sulaiman, in the hope Shalia may eventually act as a “surrogate” mother.
Keeper staff will continue to be with the family group 24 hours a day, seven days a week, and are skilled in the highly sensitive situation this presents for Zahra – losing both her mother and father.
The Zoo has said the entire troop will be off exhibit indefinitely until Zahra is completely adapted to whatever situation is deemed best for her.