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Saturday, May 3, 2008

In memory of Josh

On Thursday, 1 May 2008, Joshua the chimpanzee was euthanized, following a harrowing day and a half of medical attention and emotional trauma.

On Wednesday morning, something happened. There have been various stories that I have heard from different people about what exactly happened, but I'll give you the official story that was published in the newspapers. Two of the adult males in the chimp group at Johannesburg Zoo got into a fight. Unfortunately, as is a common thing in these sorts of scenarios, Joshua was dragged into the fight. I think that why he was dragged in was that, he never really learned to avoid the adults when they fought. If he got scared, he would usually just curl up on the floor, hugging as much straw under him as he could. So, he would probably have been easily accessible to the males who would have readily grabbed him and incorporated him into their displays or even used him as a weapon.

He was found by keepers and, after being removed from the enclosure, was rushed off to the zoo hospital. There vets examined him for injuries and, finding only a few, they suspected a head injury. He was then rushed to Milpark Clinic, a local (human) hospital. There he was x-rayed and eventually went in for a cat-scan to examine the extent of his head trauma. From the scan, it was found that he had multiple fractures to the skull and had swelling of the brain. As a result, he was moved to Onderstepoort Veterinary hospital where he was placed on a respirator as he was no longer able to breathe on his own.

There, sedated, he spend the night, surrounded by zoo staff and his human mother, Althea Guinsberg. The next day, following several tests to look at his brain activity, he was found to be completely brain dead and, around 12:12 pm, I was informed that he had been put down.

Now, I would like to do something that, for me anyway, is somewhat unorthodox. I would like to ask any of you who read this, please, to keep Althea in your thoughts and prayers. She loved Josh very much and, for her, he was her baby. It's just like losing a human child, only, here, it comes coupled with all the guilt of knowing that she was in charge of introducing him to the main group and that as a result of this, she feels his death is on her shoulders. As a friend and a scientist, I know that she's not to blame herself at all! It was a real risk that came with the intro and, had she kept Josh with her for longer, things would just have been harder for him in the long run. So please, think of her.

Goodbye Josh. You were an amazing individual who afforded me some very special experiences and the priveledge of getting to know you. You will always be remembered and missed dearly.

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