BATON ROUGE, LA (WAFB) - BREC's Baton Rouge Zoo has released new information Thursday on several recent animal deaths at the facility.
Experts at the zoo turned over the preliminary necropsy reports of the 2-year-old Malayan tiger that died earlier in April. While officials say they are still running tests, the official cause of death remains a mystery.
The zoo has conducted at least four tests on the tiger, checking for viral diseases that could have contributed to her death. Based on those findings, staff are leaning towards gastric dilatation. This disease is commonly found in dogs or other animals with large chests and results in bloating of the stomach and damage to the cardiovascular system.
Zoo veterinarian Dr. Gordon Pirie said gastric dilatation is the most likely option at this point due to the circumstances.
"It was just like normal one minute, in distress and then gone within 15 to 20 minutes," Dr. Pirie said. "As it stands now that's what we believe did happen. Now this could change as we get the you know the additional testing and that information back to us."
The tiger is just one of 18 animals that have died at the facility this year alone, eight of which were large mammals.
A closer look at the necropsy reports for the animals though reveals no wrongdoing or neglect leading to the deaths.
According to the reports, a serval developed bladder cancer, an antelope shattered his leg by jumping into a wall, and a sheep had a bladder stone lodged in his urethra. Out of the two giraffes that died, one had arthritis and the other was euthanized after being knocked down by another giraffe.
Dr. Pirie said the deaths were all unfortunate, but with little warning were also not preventable.
"When something like this happens you know it is. It can be despairing because there's no hint ahead of time," Dr. Pirie said.
With the BREC commission still weighing whether to move the zoo to a new, more modern location, curator Sam Winslow said accusations have been swirling that the zoo is neglecting animals in order to move. He denied the claims, saying they are false and completely baseless.
"That's just preposterous and the fact that we would have a staff that's so dedicated to the animals that would allow any type of neglect to happen is just ludicrous," Winslow added.
Dr. Pirie said at least four more tests are pending on the tiger. The zoo will not release an official cause of death until those results come back and they have ruled out all other possibilities. The Malayan tiger is the latest in around 18 animal deaths at the zoo this year alone.
Zoo staff say representatives with the United States Department of Agriculture as well as the Association of Zoos and Aquariums have concluded an inspection at the facility.
Results of the inspection are expected to be released within the next few weeks.