published Tuesday, January 8th, 2013

Female chimp dies at Chattanooga zoo; necropsy pending

  • photo
    The Chattanooga Zoo euthanized Josie the chimpanzee on Sunday, Dec. 30. Josie came to live at the Chattanooga Zoo from the Fort Worth Zoo in 2001 as part of the Association of Zoo and Aquarium's Species Survival Plan. She is survived by two female and one male chimpanzee that were part of the same group from Fort Worth.
    Photo by Contributed Photo /Chattanooga Times Free Press.

Zoo losses

• Josie the chimpanzee - December 2012

• Male cougar - August 2012

• Male red panda - February 2012

• Male red panda - February 2012

• Hank the chimpanzee - January 2011

• Tortoise - January 2011

• 2 snow leopard cubs - January 2011

• Female muntjac - January 2011

• 2 marmosets [monkeys] - January 2011

• Tortoise - December 2010

• Male muntjac [an Asian deer] - December 2010

• Gecko - November 2010

Source: Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park

Chattanooga zoo officials said Monday that Josie, a 37-year-old female chimpanzee, had been euthanized on Dec. 30 "after weeks of rapid deterioration and weight loss."

Zoo spokeswoman Marisa Ogles said staff members about two weeks before had noticed Josie had lost weight, then noticed her stumbling.

She said zoo veterinarians examined her but found no problems. When the trouble persisted, zoo workers took her for an examination at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine in Knoxville.

It also could find no cause for Josie's troubles, Ogles said. But Josie's condition continued to worsen until "she had lost complete mobility."

At that point, zoo officials decided the chimpanzee was not going to get better, only worse.

"It really came down to a quality-of-life issue for Josie," the zoo's executive director, Darde Long, said in a prepared statement. "It would have been selfish on our part to keep her alive in her current state with such a poor prognosis from both our veterinarian and the UT Veterinary School."

Ogles said the life span of chimpanzees in captivity "is really all over the map. Some live to be 60, others only to in their 30s."

Josie had come to live at the Chattanooga Zoo from the Fort Worth Zoo in 2001.

She became the fourth animal lost at the zoo in 2012. The results of her necropsy are pending, Ogles said.

In August, Coby the cougar collapsed and died. Ogles said the cause of the 10-year-old male cougar's death was unknown. Necropsy results were "inconclusive," she said. Before he died, Coby had passed a recent physical with "flying colors and was not exhibiting symptoms of any kind of illness," zoo officials said at the time.

In January and February, the zoo lost two aging red pandas.

Zoo officials have been particularly sensitive to animal deaths after a spate of 10 deaths in three months in the late fall of 2010 and early winter of 2011.

The zoo has 388 animals, not counting about 400 toads in a special breeding program.

In the months leading up to and just following the 2010-2011 deaths, the zoo had five inspections from the U.S. Department of Agriculture -- all of which documented 21 "items of noncompliance" ranging from too little feed on hand to enclosure-size problems.

Zoo board members commissioned a $25,000 study, and officials invited further inspections and help from the USDA and the Association of Zoos and Aquariums.

In August 2011 and again in September 2012, USDA inspections noted "No non-compliant items identified during this inspection."

Sandra Harbison, spokeswoman for the UT College of Veterinary Medicine, declined to comment on the university's necropsy findings, saying that Long wanted questions referred to zoo officials.

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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