from the Iowa Primate Learning Sanctuary:
The IPLS bonobos are the only great apes in the state of Iowa and are attended to regularly by local veterinarian, Dr. Julie Gilmore, who by nature as a veterinarian, is trained and licensed to diagnose and treat multiple species. Mammals have much in common with one another physiologically, and veterinarians are skilled at learning about significant species differences and applying that knowledge accordingly. Dr. Gilmore routinely consults about the bonobos’ health with a network of respected great ape veterinarians and human specialists located throughout the United States.
During this most recent round of illness in the bonobo group, from which Panbanisha did not recover, Dr. Gilmore consulted with three respected veterinarians with great ape experience (one being a boarded internal medicine specialist with a special interest in respiratory and cardiovascular disease, another being a zoo veterinarian with extensive bonobo experience, and the third being a zoo residency-trained private practitioner with a zoo background and more than 30 years of great ape experience.) Input regarding the illness was also obtained from a human, pediatric respiratory specialist.
The bonobos’ treatment plan was largely based on these clinicians’ cumulative, well-informed recommendations. While the rest of the bonobos have responded well to treatment, devastatingly, Panbanisha did not, despite round-the-clock veterinary care by Dr. Gilmore and her staff, which included life-saving treatments, such as nebulization and oxygen therapy to supplement her medication regimen. Panbanisha went into sudden respiratory arrest on Tuesday night. A respectable 90-minute CPR effort was made to save her.
Panbanisha’s body was immediately taken to Iowa State University’s College of Veterinary Medicine for a necropsy following her death. The necropsy was performed on November 7, 2012. Results are pending and the full report should be available within several weeks. The facility’s USDA veterinarian, who also has previous clinical great ape experience, was aware that the bonobos were fighting a respiratory illness and saw all of the bonobos at a voluntary exhibitor’s license inspection the previous week. The USDA was notified immediately with the news of Panbanisha’s death.
Respiratory disease is always taken seriously in bonobos, as respiratory disease is a leading cause of death in the species. Specifically, the most common causes of mortality in bonobos are respiratory disease (~40%) and cardiac disease (~40%.) That said, they can get nearly any disease seen in humans or others apes. They are very susceptible to human respiratory diseases and sporadic individuals will develop Acute Respiratory Distress Syndrome (ARDS) and die acutely. The underlying virus or bacteria is not always identified, but common pathogens include parainfluenzas, respiratory syncytial virus, influenza virus, adenovirus, Haemophilus and Streptococcus. Precautions are taken to protect the bonobos from respiratory disease, including, but not limited to, frequent disinfecting of enclosures, requiring all staff and volunteers to be tested for tuberculosis routinely, quarantining sick individuals, and not allowing staff members or volunteers known to be ill around the bonobos.
At a conservative estimate of 43 years of age, Matata, the matriarch of the bonobo family and Panbanisha’s mother, is one of the oldest bonobos in captivity. Bonobos occasionally live into their fifties in captivity. Panbanisha’s manner of death at 27 years of age, while tragic, is somewhat common in the captive bonobo population. It is unknown how long bonobos may live in the wild.