An elderly chimpanzee at the Ramat Gan Safari was euthanized Wednesday morning due to serious illness, though her family and members of her group were first given a chance to part from her in their own way.
- Augusta, 53, was diagnosed last week with having suffered a stroke due to a blood clot in her brain.
Keepers “had tears in their eyes” as they watched members of her family and troupe comfort her, gathering around as she spent a final night with them in their enclosure, the Safari said in a statement.
Staff became concerned about Augusta’s health after noticing last week that she was not eating. Keepers then saw that she was unable to move the right side of her body. Medical examinations, including a CT scan, confirmed their fears that she had suffered a stroke.
After deliberation, and based on other similar cases, they decided that she would be unable to continue as part of the group, nor would she ever recover given her age. A decision was taken to euthanize Augusta, one of the oldest chimpanzees in the Safari.
However, before carrying out the mercy procedure, they let Augusta spend time with her family.
“The loss of a member of the chimpanzee group is not a trivial matter, since chimpanzees have complex social lives and impressive cognitive abilities,” the Safari said. “To ease the parting from Augusta, we wanted to give members of the group an opportunity to understand her situation and say goodbye to her. It was clear to all concerned that despite the logistical difficulty and great complexity from our point of view the chimpanzees must be allowed to get closure.”
Augusta was brought back to the chimpanzee enclosure over the weekend while staff kept a close eye on what was going on. At night, the chimpanzees enter into their house and each builds a nest of branches and hay to sleep on. But Augusta was unable to do so, instead lying on the floor. Rather than each of the chimps building a nest, keepers noticed they instead joined her on the floor, gathering around her.
Augusta was eventually put to sleep on Wednesday morning in the chimp house, but without the other animals present. When they were allowed back to see her, the dominant male in the troop, Lichi, began to thump Augusta’s chest, in similar manner to human resuscitation efforts, the Safari said. Eventually, another chimp named Shoshi moved him away.
Augusta’s daughter, Ella, then approached and sat next to the body of her mother, apparently understanding what had happened. Her son Aviv also arrived, stayed for a few moments, and then left without returning.
For several hours the chimpanzees were engaged in activity around the body until finally they left the house and went out to the yard.
- Augusta arrived at the Safari when she was 11 from a zoo in the Netherlands. While there she had six offspring. Augusta was a member of the western subspecies of chimpanzees that is in critical danger of extinction. In recent years DNA samples have been taken from chimps in various zoos in an effort to identify which other subspecies they belong to in order to assist in reproduction efforts.
Header: Undated photo of Augusta the chimpanzee. (Courtesy: Ramat Gan Safari)