BioPark staff, community concerned after bacterial infection leaves one Siamang alive

Albuquerque News

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – A contagious bacterial infection has claimed another member of the Albuquerque BioPark’s ape family. Rue, a two-month-old Siamang, has died. His mother and father have already died from the infection and now his brother is the only Siamang left at the zoo. Rue’s death marks the fourth ape lost to the infection at the zoo. You can feel how heartbroken the BioPark staff are and that same sadness is also being felt within the community.

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For the past month, staff a the Albuquerque BioPark has been battling the highly contagious Shigella bacterial infection within the gorillas, siamangs and orangutans. It’s still unclear how the apes contracted it but it has impacted most of them. Even killing four apes in total, including 48-year-old Huerfanita, a beloved lowland gorilla and the infection has nearly wiped out all of the siamangs, including the most recent death, two-month-old Rue.

“Eerie is our only remaining siamang,” said BioPark Director Stephanie Stowell. “He’s the four-and-a-half-year-old brother to Rue so he lost his brother, he lost Johore his mother and he lost Brian his father.”

BioPark staff said they did everything they could to try and save Rue’s life, even getting an infant animal care specialist from the Cincinnati Zoo to help out.

“She helped the team set up protocol and around the clock care and procedures and we’ve had vet techs from our Animal Welfare Department here in the City of Albuquerque, we’ve reached out to vets, human care medical professionals as well to make sure we were doing the best care we could for Rue,” said Stowell.

Staff said Eerie appears to be on the road to recovery. He was spotted swinging around his enclosure and singing, which was a bittersweet moment.

“He was communicating and there were no other siamangs to communicate with,” said Stowell. “Siamangs are very social primates so we’re very concerned.”

Eerie might be sent to another facility so he can be surrounded by other siamangs. It’s been a devastating loss for the BioPark and community and visitors hope the apes that are still sick, will pull through. “I hope they survive,” said BioPark visitor Reinhard Lorenz. “And the caretakers will, that’s hard to do because that’s obviously devastating because well I know they care.”

As for the other apes that contracted the infection, the BioPark said the orangutans and gorillas are making progress but they are keeping a close eye on gorillas Hasani and Jack. Staff said they are on a slower road to recovery. The BioPark is working with the species survival plan to pair Eerie with another siamang group until he reaches adulthood. The BioPark will then find new residents for its upcoming Asia exhibit.

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