An 11-year-old Allen's Swamp monkey and her newborn infant died this week at the Toledo Zoo, possibly from a severe bacterial infection.
When keepers arrived at work Monday morning, they found Maxine dead in her cage with an apparently healthy infant male born during the night. Although the baby monkey was eating well and acting normally, it went into shock Tuesday morning and died shortly afterward, said Dr. Chris Hanley, the zoo's associate veterinarian.
"Monday morning, he actually looked very good,'' Dr. Hanley said. "He had a strong grip, a really good suckle response. He was bright and alert.''
The infant was given antibiotics as a precaution, but by the Tuesday morning feeding, he was weaker.
"He went from weak and nursing to he just collapsed. It was a very rapid change," Dr. Hanley said. "We got a catheter in, we got him fluids, we got antibiotics in, and other medications. We attempted to save him, but it's a pretty poor prognosis for anybody at that point."
The infant may have gotten the infection from its mother, who had groomed him and may have nursed him before she died. Because babies have undeveloped immune systems, antibiotics might not have been enough to defeat an infection, Dr. Hanley said.
"They were the most at-risk for anything - a newborn baby and a pregnant mother," he said.
Postmortem examinations of both animals suggested a bacterial infection, Dr. Hanley said.
Maxine's liver and kidneys were abnormal and her colon was "very, very bright purple," almost plum-colored, instead of soft pink, the veterinarian said. Her intestines were filled with material that suggested dead tissue. The infant monkey had similar material in its intestines, suggesting the same cause of death.
Though Maxine's uterus had prolapsed after giving birth, emerging like a little pouch from her body, that was thought to be unrelated to her death, Dr. Hanley said.
The zoo's veterinary staff expects to learn what bacteria was present in the monkeys' tissue in the next five to seven days. More detailed laboratory test results could take a few weeks.
In the meantime, the zoo's other three other swamp monkeys were placed on antibiotics as a precaution. The other animals are an adult male named Sly, and Sly and Maxine's two offspring, a 3-year-old male and a 1-year old male.