We are saddened to share that two older longtime residents of our Zoo have passed away in the last week. We made the difficult decision to euthanize Wonton the Reeves muntjac and Saga the African rock python to prevent future suffering for both as they dealt with separate health-related issues.
Both of these animal residents had been monitored to evaluate their comfort based on ongoing health issues, appetite, behavior, signs of discomfort, mobility and more. This monitoring helped our animal care team determine that euthanasia was the most compassionate choice for 21-year-old Wonton and 21-year-old Saga.
Wonton started taking seizure medication in December 2021 after his animal care team noticed abnormal neurologic signs that started with overgrooming himself and progressed to generalized seizures. While this medication makes it harder for the body to have a seizure, it doesn’t cure the underlying cause of the seizures. Recently, his keepers saw a resurgence of those seizures.
“As the disease progresses there will reach a point where the medication is no longer able to adequately control them,” said one of the Zoo’s veterinarians, Dr. Kyle Donnelly.
Wonton was born at our Zoo on June 4, 2002. He was a special animal resident who was loved by everyone, said Lands of Change area supervisor Kristen.
“As a very old deer, he had the opportunity to touch so many people- keepers, volunteers, and many guests,” Kristen said. “He sought out attention from all of his keepers, especially if he knew he could stop us from working to get some neck scratches.”
Keepers Erin and Megan both remember Wonton as their first friend when joining the Lands of Change team.
“He was without a doubt one of the sweetest, gentlest animals that I have ever worked with, and he will be missed every day,” Erin said. “I will never get tired of watching videos of him licking peanut butter!”
For keeper Alyssa, Wonton was always able to help make her day better. He used to let her clean his ears and give him massages.
“Deer have always had a special place in my heart,” Alyssa said. “They are pure beings that almost seem from another time and place. Wonton was truly a representative of that.”
Last month, Saga’s animal care team noticed changes to his scales. Our veterinary team diagnosed him with a fungal infection, and Saga received antifungal medication implants under his skin to treat the infection. Unfortunately, Saga’s health and quality of life recently began to worsen. The difficult and compassionate decision was made to euthanize him.
A necropsy found a few abnormalities in addition to the issues with his scales. We hope to learn more about his condition from histopathology, or the microscopic look at the anatomy of the organs. The results of the histopathology report usually take about 2 months.
Saga joined our Zoo in 2005. For a species that is often considered as being more aggressive than others, Saga was all “bark,” said Herps & Aquatics Area Supervisor Nicole.
“He was a very vocal snake and could often be heard sharing his opinion through deep exhales and ‘hisses,’ Nicole said.
He loved to spend time soaking in the tub and would regularly spend two or three days straight submerged in the water with just the tip of his nose above the surface! Saga also got along great with his habitat mate, Brittany the Burmese Python, Nicole said. The two of them spent a lot of time coiled up together, often choosing to share one of the shelter boxes at the front of the habitat rather than each taking their own.
It’s always hard to say goodbye to any of our animal residents, but especially two such longtime members of our Zoo. We ask that you keep our Lands of Change and Herps & Aquatics animal care team and volunteers in your thoughts.