MILWAUKEE, Wisconsin -- A baby gorilla at the Milwaukee County Zoo has been left orphaned when both of her parents died suddenly in April, and zoo officials believe contaminated water may be to blame for their deaths.
Male gorilla Cassius and female Naku got sick so quickly that they couldn't be saved.
"We were obviously devastated when the first gorilla died and demoralized when the second gorilla died," zoo veterinarian Dr. Vickie Clyde said.
Necropsy results showed that both apes died from gastrointestinal infections that were likely caused by e. coli. Officials said it's impossible to know exactly where the bacteria came from, though Dr. Clyde said these types of infections are almost always carried by the water system.
"We do everything we can to take the best care of our animals, and this had never happened before," she said.
The zoo is changing its protocol on cleaning procedures before feeding and watering animals.
Officials said the e. coli contamination was only present in the water supply for the gorilla exhibit. Extensive testing performed by the city confirmed that the water visitors drink was not affected.
"It's devastating to hear, but I'm glad they at least found out what was causing the problem," zoo visitor Kim Tinder said.
The gorilla exhibit remains closed as zookeepers help orphan Zahra adapt.
"Every time we come here it's the penguins and the apes, that's what my kids want to see first," visitor Jodi Simerl said. "So yeah, it's sad."