UTICA, N.Y. (WUTR) — The Utica Zoo has released its findings on what caused the sudden passing of their red panda, Ming Yue, on October 11. On Thursday, they revealed that acute aspiration pneumonia killed Ming Yu.
Jay Pratte—Deputy Director of Life Science and Facilities—said that the findings come from the “necropsy,” which is the equivalent to an autopsy for animals. Acute aspiration pneumonia is a lung infection caused by inhalation of saliva, stomach contents, or other foreign particles and can be severe and appear suddenly.
Pratte explained that it is hard to say exactly how this may have occurred in Ming Yue, but that something such as being “startled while eating” or having food or water “go down the wrong tube” can cause those types of infections. Pratte says that Zoo staff are extremely attentive to the health and wellbeing of their animals, but monitoring can be challenging.
“All of our animals receive direct care and attention from zoo staff every day. Changes in behavior or health are closely monitored, recorded, and reported. We have veterinary technicians on grounds daily and work with an experienced local veterinarian. Ming was exhibiting typical behaviors, eating properly, and even interacting with staff normally the two days prior to her sudden death,” said Pratte.
“Animals are experts at concealing illness or weakness. This makes monitoring health particularly challenging,” continued Pratte. “Our dedicated staff are always working their hardest to improve our animals’ wellbeing.”
There has been some concern within the local community about how the zoo plans on improving its program and preventing something like this from happening in the future. Pratte says that the Zoo is “working with the Species Survival Plan coordinators” to find the best way to proceed with managing their Red Panda exhibit going forward.