Zoo staff have euthanised the companion of an elderly lion-tailed macaque after the 29-year-old died of suspected natural causes in her sleep.
Lhasa was found dead in a sleeping position last weekend by keepers at Rockhampton Zoo in Queensland, leaving Australia’s last lion-tailed macaque, Dana, deeply distressed.
The 21-year-old was showing signs of severe stress following the death, including constant pacing, frantic alarm calling, and giving ongoing signs of high stress.
Given the species are highly social, zoo staff feared Dana’s psychological distress would only worsen as time went on.
Information shared to the zoo’s website revealed rehoming or pairing Dana with a different species were not viable options.
“It is very unlikely Dana would be accepted by a different species of primate and to attempt this would be dangerous for her at her age, as well as highly distressing,” a post to the zoo’s Facebook page read.
“Lhasa was her world and after the years of companionship, Dana’s welfare was our top priority.”
The zoo stressed it would be cruel to send Dana to another zoo, where she faced being attacked or even killed in the process of being introduced into another troupe.
Lion-tailed macaques are regarded a “phase out” species by the Zoo and Aquarium Association (ZAA) which means a new troupe would be particularly challenging to import.
“And when that troop starts to age and pass, we would have the same problem again of only one or two left presenting welfare concerns again,” the website states.
On top of a time delay of six to 12 months, bringing in a troupe of monkeys for Dana would have presented a host of new difficulties.
Dana would endure psychological distress throughout the waiting period, and there was no guarantee the monkeys would accept her, given they interact and communicate differently.
“While this decision has been heartbreaking for our zoo team and we will miss them both, we know that euthanasing Dana allowed her to die peacefully with Lhasa and not go through any unnecessary suffering,” the zoo’s Facebook post read.
“We have an incredibly supportive community here, that loves our zoo and we know will also miss Lhasa and Dana greatly.”
The species lives for about 20 years in the wild and between 25 and 30 years in captivity.