Martha, a fully vaccinated, critically endangered Western Lowland gorilla at Gladys Porter Zoo, has had her life abruptly cut short.
According to a Facebook post from the Zoo, Martha was being treated for a urinary tract infection but didn’t appear to have any underlying symptoms. Keepers say they were “shocked and heartbroken to find she had passed away during the night.”
However, after her death, a necropsy revealed severe problems in Martha.
“Upon necropsy, we found that she had multiple organ abnormalities, which, in turn, created a life-ending cascade,” said Dr. Tom deMaar, the Zoo’s Senior Veterinarian. “The cascade began with fibrosing heart disease, which led to renal failure.”
Walter DuPree, the Curator of Mammals at Gladys Porter Zoo, said, “Martha loved to interact with the public. I remember she’d put her ear to the glass, tap and wait for guests to tap back. She was also a proud mom who loved to show off her and her sisters’ babies to visitors.”
In July 2021, the Zoo announced that it intended to vaccinate its animals for COVID, citing concerns over the difficulty of treating certain animals for respiratory viruses.
“We know that tigers can get [COVID], lions can get it, gorillas and other species.” deMaar said. “One of our definite vulnerabilities is the giraffe feeding deck because I have unknown humans of unknown vaccine status interacting very close with my giraffes.”
“… The challenge would be administering treatment, you know, for a severe respiratory disease; we certainly cannot give them oxygen masks and have them carry around an oxygen bottle,” Demar said.
Gladys Porter Zoo was also once home to the beloved silverback gorilla Harambe, who was later shot by Cincinnati Zookeepers two years after being relocated.