published Monday, March 21st, 2011

Chattanooga: AZA’s zoo report makes several policy change recommendations

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums inspection report released this afternoon says four of the 10 animal deaths between Dec. 10 and Jan. 24 resulted from “an unfortunate series of unrelated events.”

Those four were the deaths of two snow leopard cubs born in inclement weather while the mother was locked outside her den and two muntjacs [Asian deer] that were frightened by dogs during a zoo event.

Yet those “unfortunate” and “unrelated events” also showed up on a list of policy and management changes the AZA suggests and applauds in its eight-page special inspection report, released today by Chattanooga Zoo spokeswoman Robin Derryberry.

The report does fault the zoo for the deaths of two tortoises, which AZA inspectors said were housed in inadequate locations with insufficient heat.

Among the policy and management changes, zoo officials have or should:

  • -Now plan each year to have the off-exhibit holding area for pregnant leopards prepared by December for a possible birth, whether or not actual breeding has been observed. Breeding had been observed in the snow leopards.
  • -“Prevent animals from being harassed by dogs.” Zoo board members already have said dogs are now banned from the zoo.
  • -Send all future animals that die at the zoo for necropsy at the University of Tennessee. Not all 10 animals that died in December and January received UT necropsies, including the muntjacs and snow leopard cubs.
  • -Upgrade its winter holding facility for tortoises and not keep them improperly in the zoo “quarantine room” or the basement of the zoo education building.
  • -Implement additional measures for “improved supervision by the management staff” and with that foster better communication through regular keeper meetings and updated keeper report forms. AZA said that already is happening after the deaths.
  • -Have a veterinary service come to the zoo twice a week, instead of once. AZA said this, too, already is implemented.
  • -Improve pest control. AZA said the zoo has a new pest control provider with a “much improved program.”

The report also states that “administrative error” left two marmosets (monkeys) without food for at least two days.

AZA, however, did not link the oversight to the monkeys’ deaths because the monkeys showed evidence of liver disease and “significant weight loss.” The report said the monkeys had an as-yet not pinpointed liver disease and their weight loss had occurred over a long period of time that had occurred over a long period of time.

The AZA inspection continues the zoo’s accreditation with a September progress recheck.

Contact Pam Sohn at psohn@timesfreepress.com or 423-757-6346.

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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