Iowa’s Largest Zoo Cited for Snow Monkey’s Death From Burns

Federal officials have said that Iowa’s biggest zoo was partly to blame for the death of a snow monkey last year.

A report from a U.S. Department of Agriculture inspector and information from the Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines say that on August 17, 2022, an 8-year-old Japanese snow monkey named Nico had a long dental treatment at the zoo.

During the surgery, the monkey was put to sleep and laid on its back with an electric warm pad under it for about three hours. A USDA inspector said that when this happens, the amount of heat is generally watched over by veterinary staff.

The inspector said, “During the investigation into this case, the zoo’s attending veterinarian and leadership staff came to the conclusion that the monkey’s back was badly burned because proper monitoring was not done.”

The burn caused a “large, gangrenous wound,” and on August 30, 13 days after the dental treatment, the snow monkey was put to sleep because it didn’t look like it would get better.

The Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service of the USDA gave the zoo a “critical violation” citation because of its visiting veterinarian and the way it cared for animals. This rule says that people who show animals have to set up and keep up programs for good veterinary care that include the right ways to avoid and treat diseases.

The tweet below verifies the news:

The inspector’s report says that all of the medical staff at the Blank Park Zoo were “retrained on how to use and keep an eye on the heating pad.”

During its visit in April 2023, the USDA only found this one problem. At the time, the zoo had about 2,800 animals. Ten snow monkeys were among them, according to the inspector’s report.

When asked by the Iowa Capital Dispatch, Blank Park Zoo CEO Anne Shimerdla said that the zoo did what it was supposed to do and told the USDA right away about what happened with Nico.

The tweet below verifies the news:

Shimerdla said, “This is a very hard situation and a very bad thing that happened,” but he also said that the government inspector did not find any other problems or violations during the April visit. “This really makes me think that this is a one-time thing.”

In the regulatory files of the Iowa Board of Veterinary Medicine, which is run by the Iowa Department of Agriculture and Land Stewardship, there is no public record of the event. Over the past five and a half years, the board has told three of Iowa’s 2,800 licensed vets that they need to change their ways.

The snow monkey, which is also called the Japanese macaque, is a Japanese animal. In 2019, the Blank Park Zoo said it had three boys and seven females between the ages of two and twenty-eight.

The Association of Zoos and Aquariums, a national group, has given the zoo its accreditation. The group does what it calls “intense, multiple-day, on-site inspections.” The group says that it has a “verifiable track record of enforcing its standards,” but it also says that it “does not share the specific results of accreditation inspections” with the public.

Shimerdla said that the zoo also doesn’t make these inspection records available to the public.

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The Blank Park Zoo Foundation is a tax-exempt, non-profit group that pays for and runs the zoo. The foundation’s tax returns show that the zoo made $8.7 million and spent $7.6 million in the fiscal year that finished in March 2022. At the end of the year, it had a net worth of $23 million.

According to the tax returns, the charity held two large fundraisers in 2021 and 2022 that lost $19,000 after taking into account money from event sponsors.

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