This story is a staff report from The Paper.


One month ago, the staff at the ABQ BioPark detected the Shigella bacteria in its ape population. Today, the BioPark announced the loss of the fourth ape to this highly infectious disease.

Rue, the infant siamang, passed away in the early hours Monday morning. His tiny body struggled against the Shigella infection even while under his mother’s care. As his mother Johore underwent treatments, caretakers supplemented Rue’s diet with formula in a bottle. When Johore died from the infection, staff cared for Rue around the clock, utilizing every available resource to support his recovery.

The BioPark has previous experience hand-rearing infant siamangs and helped develop the protocol used by other facilities in the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA). While caring for Rue, the BioPark also turned to the AZA network of relief veterinarians for additional support and brought in a neonatal expert from the Hand Rearing Resource Center. Vet techs from the City of Albuquerque’s Animal Welfare Department assisted with overnight infant siamang care to relieve weary BioPark staff. The BioPark also consulted with the local veterinary community for assistance and advice.

Despite these exceptional efforts, Rue failed to thrive. The BioPark’s attention is now focused on Rue’s 4-year-old brother, who has recovered well from his Shigella infection.

Like other apes, siamangs are highly social animals that live in family groups, usually with several offspring. The BioPark is working with the AZA Species Survival Plan (SSP) to pair Eerie with another siamang group until he reaches adulthood. The BioPark will also work with the SSP to identify new residents for its upcoming Asia exhibit, which includes multi-species yards where orangutans can interact with gibbons like siamangs.

While Rue marks the ABQ BioPark’s fourth loss from the Shigella infection, the BioPark is cautiously optimistic that the other apes are on the road to recovery. Most are feeling well and have resumed normal levels of activity.

Male gorillas Hasani and Jack are on a slower road to recovery but showing increased levels of activity and appetite every day. The animal care staff is encouraged by Hasani’s enthusiastic participation in training sessions and the return of Jack’s healthy appetite. Female chimpanzee Rainey recently tested positive for Shigella but is showing signs of improvement. Social interaction is critical to a chimpanzee’s wellness, and staff closely monitor her behavior and diet when she joins the troop on exhibit each day.

The BioPark says it will continue to provide supportive care as needed until all apes are fully recovered, which may take many weeks or months.