One of the familiar faces at the Chattanooga Zoo will be missing this spring: Josie, the 37-year-old chimpanzee, was euthanized on Dec. 30, 2012.
The staff at the Chattanooga Zoo noticed a dramatic weight loss and immobility issues in late December. In-house examinations and a visit with veterinarians from the University of Tennessee School of Veterinary Medicine that included blood work and several scans were unable to pinpoint an exact diagnosis.
Marisa Ogles, director of marketing and communications, explained that the chimpanzee’s caretakers are hoping to learn more about the root cause of Josie's illness after a necropsy. Those results will be available in six to eight weeks.
Josie first arrived at the Chattanooga Zoo in 2001 from the Fort Worth Zoo. She, two other females and one male were relocated from Texas as part of the Species Survival Plan, an initiative of the Association of Zoo and Aquariums.
“It really came down to a quality-of-life issue for Josie,” said Darde Long, executive director of the Chattanooga Zoo, in a prepared statement issued on Monday. “It would have been selfish on our part to keep her alive in her current state with such a poor prognosis from both our veterinarian and the UT Veterinary School.”
Following the euthanization, the staff was given time to say goodbye to Josie. The chimpanzee’s body was then placed in the Gombe Forest, allowing the other chimpanzees to view the body for closure purposes.
“Chimps, like humans, do have emotional investment in the group, and the other chimps knew something was going on with Josie. They [had been] calling to her,” Ogles said. “This goodbye helped the group make sense of what had happened.”
The National Primate Research Center at the University of Wisconsin at Madison has reported that chimpanzees can reach an age of 60 in captivity, depending on history, health and environment.
Goliath, a male chimpanzee at the Chattanooga Zoo, underwent an electrocardiogram last year.
Ogles noted that many questions still remain regarding the life cycle of chimpanzees. Josie’s brain was donated to the Yerkes Regional Primate Center of Emory University in Atlanta to help answer some of those questions.