Ohio’s Columbus Zoo euthanizes cheetah, also loses bonobo

COLUMBUS – A severe respiratory infection has sickened a group of bonobos at the Columbus Zoo and Aquarium, killing one of them, officials said Thursday.

The bonobos, a type of chimpanzee, began showing signs of the infection – coughing and nasal discharge – two weeks ago. A necropsy on a 15-year-old male who died Sunday revealed severe pneumonia in his lungs, said Gerald Borin, the zoo’s executive director.

Twelve remaining bonobos are being treated with antibiotics. “The look livelier, they’re eating better, and so we’re optimistic that they’ve turned the corner,” Borin said.

It’s unclear how the bonobos became infected.
The bonobos are being kept in a glass-enclosed display area during the winter. The only contact they have with humans are from zoo staff, who wear respiratory masks and follow a strict hand-washing protocol during flu season, Borin said.

Staff members are not showing signs of illness, he said. Zoo officials are expecting lab results in a few days that could help identify the agent causing the infection, Borin said.

Borin also said Thursday a 17-year-old cheetah with kidney disease was euthanized. The cheetah had been taking medication for several years and was the fourth-oldest cheetah out of a group of 270 living in 55 institutions throughout North America, Borin said.

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