Dulu, a nearly 3-year-old gibbon at Santa Fe zoo, dies in accident
Published: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 4:33 p.m.
Last Modified: Friday, July 12, 2013 at 4:33 p.m.
The Santa Fe College Teaching Zoo had an unexpected tragedy this week.
Keepers found Dulu, a female white-handed gibbon who was not quite 3 years old, unresponsive in her off-time enclosure Wednesday morning. She had become entangled in a rope swing that had been a part of the enclosure for five or six years, said zoo director Jonathan Miot.
Zoo staff members rushed her to the veterinary school at the University of Florida, performing CPR in the van on the way, but she couldn’t be revived.
“She was the first gibbon to be born here at the teaching zoo, so we were pretty excited about that,” Miot said. “It’s always sad, but this is exceptionally sad.”
Dulu was part of a family of white-handed gibbons at the zoo: parents Eddie and Cajun, and Rainer, an infant who was born in October.
Miot said so far, keepers haven’t noticed the rest of Dulu’s family exhibiting any abnormal behavior, which he said is a good thing.
Like humans, the gibbons could experience depression from the loss of Dulu, Miot said.
Sometimes, animals will stop eating or become lethargic, Miot said. In that case, keepers would try to engage with them as much as possible, offering different food, vines, toys or anything else that could make the animals’ day a little more interesting.
Miot said Eddie and Cajun are still playing with Rainer, and all three are still eating.
“It seems like they are actually dealing with it a lot better than we are,” he said.
Santa Fe College has the only zookeeper training program of its kind in the United States.
The roughly 150 students in the program, rather than taking internships at private zoos, visit Santa Fe’s accredited teaching zoo in the mornings and evenings during classes.
They’re there every day, cleaning, feeding and caring for each animal.
“Christmas morning, when you’re home in your bed or with your family, there’s someone here with the animals,” Miot said.
And naturally, the keepers bond with each animal.
Discovering Dulu on Wednesday morning was hard for the zoo staff, but they had to carry on with the job of caring for all the other animals at the facility, Miot said.
It’s sad and upsetting, Miot said, but keepers can’t let their emotions compromise their level of care.
“I think most of us kind of gave extra attention to our pets when we got home,” he said.
Miot’s dog, a black lab mix named Gypsy, doesn’t usually sleep in the bed.
“But she slept with me last night,” he said Thursday.
Whenever an animal dies unexpectedly, keepers at the zoo meet to talk about what happened.
Zoo staff members examine the cause of the accident and discuss what to modify to make sure the same accident doesn’t happen again.
In this case, Miot said the zoo may do some more emergency medical response training with staff members, although the UF vets agreed the keepers probably wouldn’t have been able to save Dulu.
The rope swing, which is a standard toy used in primate exhibits all over the country, was removed from the gibbon enclosure at the Santa Fe zoo.
Some ropes will remain in the enclosure, but they’re attached at both ends and held taut, so there’s no way for an animal to get hung up, Miot said.
The last animal to die at the Santa Fe zoo was a 19-year-old Gould’s monitor lizard. The average life span for a Gould’s monitor in the wild is 12 years.
Brooke Kramer, a 24-year-old zookeeping student, said Dulu was “a little angel,” and she’ll remember the gibbon’s quirky personality.
Kramer said Dulu often did flips, played tag and chased baby Rainer around.
As one of Dulu’s trainers, Kramer spent as much time with the animal as her own dog, but she compared her connection with the gibbon to a human relationship.
“It was rough,” she said. “It’s like losing one of your friends, really.”
Correspondent Marisa Ross contributed to this report. Contact Erin Jester at 338-3166 or firstname.lastname@example.org.