Animal deaths prompt criticism of Topeka Zoo
By Associated Press
Posted on Fri, Oct. 23, 2009
TOPEKA — Two groups investigating the deaths of several animals at the Topeka Zoo criticized zoo officials for lax veterinary care and poor record-keeping.
A Sept. 28 inspection report cited the zoo for several noncompliance issues related to the death of seven animals from January 2007 through July 2008. That investigation was followed an August report by the USDA that cited the zoo for several noncompliance issues.
Among other problems, investigators found that two animals died after being infested with maggots.
Also Wednesday, a separate review by Kansas State University veterinarians discussed some of the animal deaths including the 2006 death of a hippopotamus, which was left in 108-degree water.
Zoo director Mike Coker said the facility implemented new policies on animal care record-keeping that he thinks will alleviate problems noted by the USDA.
“It’s important to have as complete a picture as possible,” he said. “We’re just reminding our folks to be more detailed, document everything.”
The two critical reports coming so soon after the USDA report in August prompted City Council member John Alcala to question the competence of zoo officials.
“There are serious issues happening out there, and they need to be addressed,” he said. “Things are getting let go.”
The USDA inspection on Sept. 28 found noncompliance related to the deaths of seven animals — a Pallas cat, a rabbit, an antelope, a mouse deer and three bats — from January 2007 through July 2008.
The Pallas cat died in January 2008 after being ill for several days. A necropsy found it had died from a maggot infestation. The report noted the lack of treatment.
“Medical records do not indicate that the animal was assessed by a veterinarian or that any veterinary care was provided for this animal,” the report reads.
Coker said the animal care staff followed procedures by recording the cat’s declining health. But when the information was given to a veterinarian, no diagnosis was made. Coker said he wasn’t sure why.
The report found that many of the animals’ death were not properly documented.
Coker said he has instructed the zoo staff to keep more detailed reports of animal care. He is also writing weekly reports to the USDA detailing issues involving the animals and zoo activities.
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