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July 08, 2022

Saint Louis Zoo Saddened by Passing of Chimpanzee Mlinzi

The Saint Louis Zoo is saddened to announce that Mlinzi, a beloved 29-year-old female chimpanzee, has died.

Mlinzi had been under veterinary treatments for cardiac disease since 2014, but her condition decompensated over the last 48 hours and she was in advanced heart failure. After consideration and welfare assessments regarding her long-term prognosis, the animal care team of caretakers, zoological managers, curator and veterinarians decided that euthanasia was the kindest and most humane action.

"Mlinzi has been a wonderful patient, including voluntary participation for ultrasound and electrocardiogram exams to help us monitor her condition and adjust treatments," said Saint Louis Zoo Staff Veterinarian Kari Musgrave, DVM, Dipl ACZM. "She is a true testament to the wonderful care provided, and the relationship she has had with her team of caretakers."

Mlinzi came to the Saint Louis Zoo at age 2 and was part of a chimpanzee foster family that allowed many young chimpanzees to develop proper socialization skills with members of their species. Mlinzi's early bond with male chimpanzee Hugo was an important part in the stability of this foster family. Her name was derived from a Swahili word used to designate a protector and guardian, which ironically was a role that Mlinzi took very seriously in her chimpanzee family.

"The animal care staff, the chimpanzee family, and all those who knew and loved Mlinzi are grieving her loss," said Saint Louis Zoo Curator of Primates Heidi Hellmuth. "Our dedicated and experienced animal care and veterinary teams gave her the best care until her heart disease could no longer be managed."

"Mlinzi loved to interact with keepers, especially noticing when someone had something new – clothes, jewelry, etc. – that Mlinzi always wanted to inspect," said Jungle of the Apes Keeper Lindsey Gray.

Spontaneous heart disease, specifically affecting the muscle of the heart (cardiomyopathy), is a common health condition in adult great apes, both in the wild and in human care. The cause of this high incidence of cardiomyopathy in chimpanzees is not fully understood, but is likely multifactorial.

Chimpanzees are a critically endangered species. Populations are perilously low due to several factors, including deforestation, disease and the bushmeat crisis. The Zoo is dedicated to caring for chimpanzees both at the Zoo and through the Saint Louis Zoo WildCare Institute Center for the Conservation of Congo Apes, which works with partners to help conserve chimpanzees in their natural environments.

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