The chimpanzee named Mike had his right arm amputated during a five-hour surgery, after the limb was discovered to be infected.
Hamilton Zoo director Stephen Standley said the infection occurred after the tip of the middle finger on Mike’s right hand was bitten off during an altercation with another male chimp last week. This altercation is part of typical chimp behaviour as the males of the troop compete to prove who is more dominant.
“Staff first suspected Mike had sustained an injury last Wednesday [9 March] after noticing that he was not using his right hand when he returned to the chimp house to go to bed that night. While the keeper was unable to view the extent of Mike’s injury at that time, the next morning the chimp was examined by the zoo veterinarian who confirmed that he had lost the top of his right middle finger, including the nail bed,” he said.
The vet prescribed a course of antibiotics and pain relief, however the wound became infected and this infection soon spread, meaning amputation of the right arm was required. While gas gangrene was confirmed, the causal agent is unlikely to be determined since Mike was on antibiotics.
Mr Standley said while it initially appeared hopeful that Mike would come through yesterday’s surgery, he wasn’t able to fully recover from the anaesthesia and passed away about 8.15pm.
“Mike is a much loved member of the Hamilton Zoo family and it has obviously been a distressing time for us to firstly see him go through this major surgery and then secondly be unable to recover from the surgery as we would have hoped,” he said. Hamilton mayor Julie Hardaker said Mike’s loss will be felt strongly by many at this time.
“Mike is going to be sorely missed by staff and visitors, and certainly by the other members of the chimpanzee troop,” she said.
This morning the chimpanzee troop will be given access to Mike’s body so they can spend time with him, recognise that he has passed away and go through the natural grieving process.
The vet will then do a full post mortem on Mike before his body is cremated. Mike was born on 10 October 1973 at Taronga Zoo in Sydney and transferred to Auckland Zoo in June 1982, before moving to Hamilton in October 2004. Together with long-term partner Lucy, Mike parented the zoo’s other two male chimps, Lucifer and Luka.
Mike’s death comes just months after the passing of another Hamilton Zoo chimpanzee, Suzie, who died in November, aged 46.
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