published Tuesday, January 25th, 2011

Warner Park: Hank the chimp dies at 42

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    Staff File Photo by Allison Kwesell/Chattanooga Times Free Press Hank, a chimpanzee, looks through the glass of his habitat at the Chattanooga Zoo in this recent photo.

Hank the chimpanzee -- the most famous resident of the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park -- died in his sleep Sunday night, becoming the seventh animal to die there in the past month.

That statistic has a number of people concerned.

"It's been kind of a tough time for us, but when you deal with this many animals, you certainly do have losses," said Darde Long, executive director at the zoo. "Our zoo also has often been a home for animals that came from very bad situations."

But some former zoo workers and a local university anthropologist say the numbers bear a closer look.

"For me that's too many animals in the course of a few weeks," said Deborah Bond, who worked at the zoo for seven years until she transferred to another city job at McKamey Animal Shelter when the Friends of the Zoo took over operation of the zoo in October.

"I hear there are two different sides of every story," she said of the animal deaths. "I honestly don't know what to believe, but a lot of staff there now don't have prior experience with large animals. I think a lot of the issues happening there are due to some of the [newer] staff not being taught what to look for."

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    Staff File Photo by Angela Lewis/Chattanooga Times Free Press Children watch Hank at the Chattanooga Zoo during a celebration for Hank's 36th birthday.

Dr. H. Lyn Miles, a University of Chattanooga Foundation Professor of Anthropology at UTC, said she often had sought more access to Hank, who was 42, for study purposes. She now wants to know more about his death.

"I think it's great people are asking questions," she said. "These animal deaths always need to be investigated but particularly those of higher intelligence animals. We need to know more about how we can better care for them in captivity."

Long said necropsies from the University of Tennessee veterinarian school have been ordered on Hank and other animals that died recently at the zoo. Other deaths include:

* A male muntjac, a small type of Asian deer that died last month after a visitor to Holiday Lights at the Chattanooga Zoo noticed he was struggling in the koi pond, according to other former workers.

* Two marmosets that died while their regular keeper was on vacation and another keeper apparently was not scheduled to tend to them, they said.

* A female muntjac that Long said died from a twisted intestine.

* Two baby cub snow leopards that died shortly after being born outside in freezing temperatures while the cats may have been locked outside their shelter, former workers said.

Some good news is that one snow leopard cub survived the cold birthing.

Zoo spokeswoman Robin Derryberry announced the cub's birth Monday afternoon after Hank's death became public knowledge.

The Chattanooga Zoo exchanged one of its female snow leopards with a zoo in Pittsburgh to begin breeding the snow leopards. Snow leopard cubs have only a 40 percent survival rate, Derryberry said.

"We've had a few deaths, but these animals are very well cared for at this zoo," Derryberry said.

"We've been on a bit of a maternity ward binge lately with all of these births," Derryberry said, noting that last January the zoo also helped deliver two cotton top tamarin monkeys.

Hank's timeline

1968 -- Hank is born in a rain forest in Africa.

1969 -- Hank is captured and sold to a circus.

1976 -- Hank is donated to the Warner Park Zoo.

1985 -- Friends of the Zoo is established.

1992 -- "Hank's Playground" is built allowing him to walk on grass for the first time in 16 years.

2001 -- Zoo acquires five chimps from the Fort Worth Zoo. Gombe Forest exhibit is completed.

2005 -- Hank is introduced to the Zoo's eldest female chimp, Josie. This is the first physical contact Hank has had with another chimp in more than 29 years.

2008 -- Hank celebrates his 40th birthday.

2011 -- Hank dies at the age of 42.

The zoo, which is owned by the city, has more than 200 animals and is inspected by three agencies.

Tennessee Wildlife and Resources Agency captive wildlife coordinator Walter Cook said he has never seen significant problems with the zoo in the 17 years he's been checking its facilities, and zookeepers always have complied with his requests.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is charged with animal safety and treatment inspections.

USDA spokesman David Sacks said the most recent inspection there, dated Dec. 20, 2010, shows a repeat citation -- something that automatically triggers a reinspection within 90 days.

USDA normally does one surprise inspection yearly when new problems are noted, he said. In 2010, the Chattanooga zoo was inspected twice: Sept. 29 and Dec. 20.

Among items noted by the inspector in 2010 were expired drugs in the animal hospital, inadequate pest control, an inadequate fencing issue and several thin animals for which weight records and treatment documentation were inadequate. The September inspection noted that at least one complaint about a thin animal had been filed by a member of the public.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums also inspects and rates its member facilities every five years.

Long said the Chattanooga Zoo is among the 10 percent of U.S. zoos that are accredited by the AZA.

about Pam Sohn...

Pam Sohn has been reporting or editing Chattanooga news for 25 years. A Walden’s Ridge native, she began her journalism career with a 10-year stint at the Anniston (Ala.) Star. She came to the Chattanooga Times Free Press in 1999 after working at the Chattanooga Times for 14 years. She has been a city editor, Sunday editor, wire editor, projects team leader and assistant lifestyle editor. As a reporter, she also has covered the police, ...

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cannonball said...

Chattanooga will miss 'ol Hank.

January 25, 2011 at 7:07 a.m.
whatsthefuss said...

It's just part of your job as a parent to educate your children. I've seen Hank many times and never witnessed this behavior. I'll have to sit down with the kids after school today and fill them in. They seem to remember bathroom humor the first time so this may follow suit. Farts are still very funny in our house!!!

How could they? Poop-munching apes prompt quest for answers

Nov. 10, 2009 Special to World Science

Na­ture can be beau­ti­ful. El­e­gant. Grace­ful.

But not al­ways. Be­lieve it or not, an­i­mals don’t do eve­ry­thing they do to im­press us. If you doubt it, look no fur­ther than the fact that some an­i­mals eat their own fe­ces.

This phe­nom­e­non, called cop­roph­a­gy, oc­curs through­out the an­i­mal king­dom. It is par­tic­u­larly well-known among ro­dents, rab­bits and their rel­a­tives, and—less often—dogs and apes.

The par­ticipa­t­ion of this last group has caused caused par­tic­u­lar shock among hu­man wit­nesses, not least be­cause apes are sup­posed to be our close ev­o­lu­tion­ary rel­a­tives.

But two new stud­ies may of­fer a meas­ure of com­fort. At least, such as can be found in such a dis­mal situa­t­ion.

The stud­ies sug­gest that chimps and bono­bos—the two spe­cies that are our clos­est ape rel­a­tives—eat po­o­p not for its own sa­ke, but in or­der to re­trieve hard, nu­tri­tious seeds from it.

Cop­roph­a­gy may be an “adap­tive feed­ing strat­e­gy dur­ing pe­ri­ods of food scarcity,” wrote Tet­suya Saka­maki of the Pri­ma­te Re­search In­sti­tute at Kyo­to Un­ivers­ity, Ja­pan, in a study pub­lished in the Oct. 31 ad­vance on­line is­sue of the jour­nal Pri­ma­tes.

Saka­maki re­ported that he spent a total of no less than 1,142 hours (48 days) watch­ing a group of about two doz­en wild bono­bos at the Lu­o Sci­en­tif­ic Re­serve in the Con­go. Among them, “at least five fe­males… prac­ticed cop­roph­a­gy and/or fe­cal in­spec­tion,” he wrote.

Samakaki found most of the episodes hard to see clear­ly, be­cause they oc­curred high in trees, but he came away with the im­pression that the apes were try­ing to get at seeds. In the most clearly vis­i­ble case, a young fe­male “used her lips to ex­tract Di­al­ium seeds from the fe­ces in her hand, ate the seeds, and dis­carded oth­er fi­brous parts in the fe­ces,” he wrote.

Di­alum plants are mem­bers of the leg­ume fam­i­ly.

A study in the April 2004 is­sue of the jour­nal sug­gested si­m­i­lar con­clu­sions re­gard­ing chim­panzees, not­ing that similar seed types were in­volved: “two types of Di­al­ium seeds were com­monly found in the fe­ces.”

The au­thors of this pre­vi­ous study added that stress, bore­dom or food scarcity did­n’t ap­pear to play a role in the cop­roph­a­gy. Saka­maki in the more re­cent study mostly agreed, except he wrote that cop­roph­a­gy did seem more com­mon when food was hard to find.

January 25, 2011 at 8:31 a.m.
MitziMullins said...

"Former employee reported, former employee reported, former employee reported....." Fact checkers, please!!

And I didn't know that Snow Leopards couldn't give birth in the cold....

January 25, 2011 at 11:33 a.m.
bluedagger said...

Chattanooga is left with just one chimp now. He lives in Brainerd and goes by the name of Ron the Mayor

January 25, 2011 at 1:28 p.m.

Hank was a cool champ when he did't throw feces at you.

January 25, 2011 at 4:56 p.m.
ChattCatt said...

This is one of the most disturbing articles I have read- these images just won't go away. " Two marmosets that died while their regular keeper was on vacation and another keeper apparently was not scheduled to tend to them, they said." WHAT?? Nobody was taking care of them and they died??? Whoops- we forgot to schedule someone?? Does no one else check on these animals for days and days??? " Two baby cub snow leopards that died shortly after being born outside in freezing temperatures while the cats may have been locked outside their shelter, former workers said." Is there any truth to this? This leopard that was due to give birth any time is locked outside of her enclosure? and no one is paying any attention? Why wouldn't there be a special vet taking care of this? This is not just disturbing it should be criminal neglect of an endangered species. What is going on with Zoo Management?? IS there any?? Why isn't someone there all the time keeping an eye on things? And you are all going on and on about poop, and one fool even throws in a silly useless political comment. If there is any vague truth to any of this we just absolutely do not deserve to have a zoo here.

January 25, 2011 at 6:40 p.m.
dude_abides said...

Hey, let's try an experiment! Let's put another one of God's creatures, oh...let's say...a human, in a cage for 35 years and see if it/they develop any less than wholesome habits. Maybe we should have shocked the monkey when he exhibited these loathsome traits. Then we would have had a much more antiseptic back to nature experience for our kids. You FAILED us Hank, you imperfect specimen from the Laboratory of the Lord!

January 25, 2011 at 8:15 p.m.
whatsthefuss said...

ChattCatt, It is very possible that what is stated in the article is true. The biggest problem is funding. The annual membership is negligible along with the Discovery Museum and the Aquarium. When people do not support these wonderful attractions we have for our families enjoyment the funding to properly staff and maintain do not exist. Maybe we could train some of our homeless population to tend to the animals and provide them shelter and food on the grounds of the property in return. The same could be said for the unemployed. Purpose in life is necessary. Perhaps this could be the answer. Also, dude-abides makes a very good point. Hank didn't ask to be here.

January 25, 2011 at 8:43 p.m.
Humphrey said...

Hank lived in a enclosure with glass wall windows. He never threw pooh at anyone because there wasn't any open space between him and a guest. These arseholes are just trying to get a rise out of people because they are bored dumb rednecks with nothing better to do than to try and get some attention.

January 25, 2011 at 8:44 p.m.
whatsthefuss said...

Humphrey has been there. I believe there are also other chimps at the zoo. Humphrey is a stand up guy!!!

January 25, 2011 at 8:51 p.m.
ChattCatt said...

Wildman you are a moron.

January 25, 2011 at 9:25 p.m.
jpo3136 said...

Our condolences to Darde Long and the zookeepers for the loss of the animals so long in their care.

Funding. I doubt that the recent losses of these animals has much to do with funding; yet, every time I went to the zoo years ago, it was clear: they were being ignored.

We have not funded innovation at the zoo as we should have. Instead, we provide the minimum to get by.

Apparently we spend three times as much on public municipal golf as we do on the zoo.

The zoo is an important academic and cultural resource. We spend a little over $500K on the zoo. We spend $1,817,000+ on golf.

It's time to fund the zoo as the million-dollar-plus asset that it is. I'm not sure how golf courses amount to $1.8 million when they provide little educational benefit, if any. Reference for the figures was 2011 CABR, p.148, PDF file number 3, PDF page 68.

We need to understand that we have to fulfill our responsibilities as intelligent gentlemen when we house primates and large animals in captivity. If we give our people the assets, training, supplies and facilities they need, then the zoo can be a positive experience for everyone.

We cannot have the entire city's zoo operation rely on the efforts and goodwill of Darde Long 24 hours a day.

That means we need to give those people more support than we devote to golf.

The zoo should be funded and supported by the public as the educational and cultural resource that it is. They've had to make do long enough. It's time to double their budget. Perhaps a partnership with UT Chattanooga is somehow in order, to promote academic interest in the live animals at the zoo for passive observation. The zoo is near the university, yet it gets less press than a basketball game.

Clearly, some of our residents could use some educational support when it comes to basic facts about primates and large animals. The tone and content of some of our discussions fall below Dr. Miles' teaching of an orangutan sign language; and, the thoughtful and intelligent care Darde Long has led at the zoo; and, well, just look at what some people have to say about rare and intelligent animals.

We need to fund and position our zoo to teach more in the future.

A third of what we spend on golf is not cutting it.

January 25, 2011 at 10:53 p.m.
dude_abides said...

Hey, Hank's on! Snagging a camera through the cage! Difficult to discern on which side of the fence the higher intelligence resided.

January 25, 2011 at 11:34 p.m.
senyahc said...

I will miss Hank. Boo at the Zoo was a blast because he would sit there and for no other reason than his love for us ignorant, redneck humans, entertain us. He never failed to bring a smile to my face. I miss his eyes, he would never break a gaze. I wish his life would have been better, but I am glad he ended his days at this Zoo, instead of in a lab.

January 26, 2011 at 5:56 a.m.
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