Since her birth back in February 2015, the Busch Gardens Tampa veterinary and animal care teams have been closely monitoring the park’s infant western lowland gorilla, Kamari. Despite all the care and attention the baby gorilla was receiving, within weeks after birth and in the following months, the teams noticed that Kamari was not physically developing at the expected rate, including having trouble supporting her body weight and not fully using her lower extremities.
In August 2015, in consultation with human pediatric specialists from the University of South Florida, as well as additional veterinary specialists, the Busch Gardens veterinary team conducted a detailed physical exam to determine the cause of Kamari’s delayed development. While the team could not identify the exact cause of Kamari’s illness through the basic tests alone, it was determined that she likely had a serious and progressive neurological condition.
In continued consultation with the pediatric specialists, and as part of the process to determine the cause of Kamari’s illness, a magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) test was conducted. This kind of test in a very young gorilla requires general anesthesia. While there are always risks associated with general anesthesia, especially with an animal that has a possible central nervous system disease, the greater risk in this case was the progressive nature of her disease.
During the procedure, for yet undetermined reasons, Kamari’s heart rate and breathing diminished and she became unresponsive. The veterinary and animal care teams, along with the specialists, worked quickly to stabilize her. However, despite the sustained efforts of her medical team, she passed away shortly before 7 p.m. on September 9, 2015.
“As veterinarians and animal care specialists for Busch Gardens, the health of our animals is our top priority,” said Busch Gardens Veterinarian Dr. Peter Black. “This is certainly a difficult time for the Busch Gardens family, but we will learn from our experience with this animal, including the circumstances of her death, and share our insights within the zoological community so that we can continue to advance husbandry and veterinary care for this species.”
“The passion and dedication that our animal care and veterinary teams have for the animals at Busch Gardens are second to none,” said Busch Gardens Park President Jim Dean. “While we understand that despite our best efforts, death does occur, I commend our teams for the work they do and the support they gave this animal and the rest of the animals in our care.”
A detailed post mortem examination, as well as additional testing, is being conducted by Busch Gardens’ pathologist and outside veterinary consultants. Full results are not expected for several weeks.
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