published Sunday, March 6th, 2011

A sad but natural death

Hank, the 42-year-old chimpanzee who died at the Chattanooga Zoo in January, was a favorite with children and adults alike. And when his death came amid an unusual spate of other animal deaths at the zoo, questions arose about whether the animals were receiving adequate care.

Fortunately, at least in Hank’s case, it appears those concerns were unwarranted. A recently released necropsy on the chimp found that he died of a buildup of fluid around his heart. About four-fifths of chimpanzees show signs of heart problems similar to Hank’s, said zoo veterinarian Tony Ashley, and roughly a third of those die as a result.

In other words, Hank’s death was apparently due to “natural causes.”

“We know he had a great life here at the zoo, and the report points to the fact that Hank was simply facing challenges of aging,” zoo Director Darde Long said in a news release.

His death was still a blow to zoo enthusiasts and animal lovers, of course, but it is some comfort that it was evidently a natural event.

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