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Zoo Knoxville saddened by unexpected death of Naomi Gibbon​

  zoo knoxville ape
Zoo Knoxville's Naomi Gibbon - Image by Zoo Knoxville

KNOXVILLE (April 18, 2018) – Zoo Knoxville is saddened to announce the unexpected death of Naomi white-handed gibbon.

The 10-year-old female ape had recently arrived in Knoxville from Little Rock, Arkansas, on January 28 to be paired with male Georgie. After an initial quarantine stay in the zoo’s animal clinic where she received a good health assessment, Naomi moved to the zoo’s new Gibbon Trails, where she began to explore her new habitat. In late March, however, she became lethargic and her mobility became uncoordinated. She was immediately transferred back to the zoo’s clinic where she could be closely monitored and cared for by the veterinary team from the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine (UTCVM).

A thorough battery of tests that included an MRI, a check of her spinal fluid and assessment of her liver function revealed no conclusive diagnosis of the cause of her neurological issues. Despite treatment with antiviral, antibiotic and anti-inflammatory medications and exhaustive care from the zoo’s clinic staff and vet team, Naomi continued to become unresponsive. When it became clear that there was not a chance for recovery, the difficult decision to humanely euthanize her was made on the afternoon of Tuesday, April 17.

“We are reeling from the loss of Naomi,” says Phil Colclough, Director of Animal Care, Conservation and Education. “We are in the business of caring for and saving animals, and while we all recognize that there will always be ups and downs when taking care of living creatures, the lows such as this never become less painful.”

Zoo Knoxville will work with the White-handed Gibbon Species Survival Plan, which is a collaborative program among zoos accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA), to find a companion for male Georgie. In the interim, he is coping well with the companionship of his caretakers and enjoying his interactions with zoo visitors.

Zoo Knoxville is a nonprofit entity situated on 53 wooded acres just east of downtown Knoxville. Zoo Knoxville features exhibits of wild animals in natural habitats and is world renowned for its efforts in conservation and species survival. Zoo Knoxville is nationally accredited by the Association of Zoos and Aquariums (AZA) and is committed to the highest standards in animal care and well-being, ethics, conservation, and education. Knoxville’s largest attraction, the zoo is open every day except Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The zoo is open Monday through Friday from 9:00 a.m. until 4:00 p.m. and Saturday and Sunday from 9:00 a.m. until 5:00 p.m. Admission and ticket sales stop one-hour before the zoo closes. For more information visit

Published April 18, 2018

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