Zoo tamarin update: Pathology reports inconclusive

June 18, 2014 - 8:32am

Three surviving tamarins, including a 9-week-old juvenile, are doing well, vets say

Six cotton-top tamarins — a species of small New World monkey — died of unknown causes May 24 shortly after their arrival at the Oregon Zoo's veterinary medical center. The six deceased belonged to a group of nine tamarins that arrived at the zoo May 22. The remaining three, including one juvenile, appear to be in good health and are being closely monitored.

In a summary report issued yesterday, Oregon Zoo veterinarian Tim Storms outlined the results of recent pathology tests, which were unable to conclusively determine the cause of death for six cotton-top tamarins that arrived at the zoo last month. Dr. Storms also provided an update on the three remaining tamarins, which he said are all doing well.

"Since the tragic loss of six tamarins soon after arrival at our quarantine facility in May," Dr. Storms wrote, "we have been intensively caring for the three survivors while at the same time working diligently to determine the cause of deaths."

Necropsies (animal autopsies) performed immediately following the discovery of the deceased tamarins showed all of them to be "in good body condition, and no specific cause of death was identified."

Subsequent pathology tests showed stress-related responses in the tamarins, Dr. Storms said, but "the pattern and timing of these deaths does not appear explainable by stress alone." Dr. Storms then pursued testing for a "range of other potentially contributing factors," such as environmental toxins and gastrointestinal pathogens, but could find no evidence of any specific cause.

"Unfortunately, as much as we would like we will never know the specific cause of death of these tamarins," Dr. Storms said.

The three surviving tamarins, a 9-week-old female and her two older siblings, remain in good health, the report said.

"We have intensely monitored these tamarins in the days since, and are pleased to report that they are thriving and have maintained their close family bond," Dr. Storms wrote. "The juvenile has taken exceptionally well to supplemental hand-feeding with formula. She is daily increasing her appetite for food items while becoming less reliant on formula."