Saddened by the unexpected death of the pregnant chimpanzee Jackie, Knoxville Zoo keepers are working to help the park's remaining seven chimps adjust to the loss.
Jackie, 35, was a leader and often a mediator among residents of the park's natural habitat Chimp Ridge. Now "it will be a 'new normal,' " said Lisa New, zoo director of animal collections for mammals and birds.
Though a team of medical experts worked frantically to save her, Jackie died Thursday night from complications of pregnancy. Her baby was due in mid-March or early April. She died at the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine, about four hours after she'd been taken there from the zoo.
"We're very saddened by the loss," Zoo Executive Director Jim Vlna said. "We had no indications that there were any problems throughout the pregnancy, and we had hoped to celebrate the birth of a healthy baby, but unfortunately nature doesn't always give you the outcome you hope for.
"Right now our focus is on the well-being of the rest of the chimpanzee troupe and helping them cope with the loss."
Jackie's pregnancy had been normal until a few days ago when she showed possible signs of early labor. Zookeepers spent the nights of Feb. 28 and March 1 at Chimp Ridge to watch her. The zoo consulted with UT veterinarians and University of Tennessee Medical Center specialists in human high-risk pregnancies.
Jackie later showed no more signs of labor and seemed well physically, New said.
But on March 4 the ape was sick. Female ape Bo sat nearby, tending and grooming Jackie before her friend was taken to UT.
At the veterinary school, an ultrasound showed Jackie was carrying twins with a rare problem. A female fetus was dead and had shared a heart with an "acardic," incompletely developed twin. The medical team induced labor to try to save Jackie.
After the labor was over, Jackie's heart stopped. Medical personnel tried repeatedly to revive her with a defibrillator.
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