The federal government fined the Kansas City Zoo more than $4,500 after one of its chimpanzees literally starved to death because of zookeeper failures.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture notified the zoo in May that it had failed to prevent dominant chimps from keeping food away from Nusu. The 13-year-old male died in December. He should have weighed about 150 pounds, but instead weighed 94 pounds.
He had lost 37 percent of his body weight in 20 months, which was the last time he had been weighed.
Zookeepers used treats to lure primates onto a scale, but failed to keep track that Nusu wasn't being weighed. This was because other chimps were literally keeping food from him.
"Your employees were not certain as to how much food this chimpanzee was consuming as they were not monitoring this animal specifically and they knew that other chimpanzees hoarded biscuits from the other chimpanzees," according to the federal letter of reprimand.
The zoo's daily log failed to note anything wrong with Nusu until the staff contacted the veterinarian after he started developing bumps on his arm. Nusu was never separated from the troop despite his weight loss or skin irritations.
Zoo officials admitted Thursday that they failed to provide adequate care but stressed changes have been made as a result of Nusu's death.
Geoff Hall, who was recently hired as second in command at the zoo, said caring for captive animals is both an art and a science. He said changes have been made.
"We have fantastic veterinarians that work at the Kansas City Zoo," he said. "Of course, veterinarians at zoos are working on hundreds of animals of different specifies. It's not like a human physician working on one species and having multiple subjects. We have to learn all the time from the animals."
Hall told the Kansas City Star, KCTV5's reporting partner, that he has great confidence in the zoo's animal management team and their care of the zoo's animals.
"We recognize that we could have done things better back then," Hall told the newspaper. "We have made some very significant strides and improvements. It's an expectation of excellence that constantly grows. We're very pleased with the progress of this institution."
The zoo has brought in a chimpanzee expert from Chicago as well as zoo directors from across the country to review the zoo's operations. Additional staff have been hired and training has been stepped up.