Saturday, May 14, 2005

Three squirrel monkeys, former residents of the Blue Tropix nightclub on Oahu, got familiar with their surroundings in a quarantined area of Hilo's Panaewa Rainforest Zoo in January.

2 monkeys from
nightclub die

Their immune systems might have
been weak from living in glass boxes
their entire lives

HILO » Ikaika and Lehua died last month at Hilo's Panaewa Rainforest Zoo. The two small squirrel monkeys had been among three rescued from a glass enclosure at the Blue Tropix nightclub in Honolulu and brought to the zoo in January.

"It was a bummer. We all felt bad," zoo director Dick Mortemore said.

The zoo staff buried the animals on the grounds, holding a small service for them, spreading flowers on their graves, Mortemore said.

The first to go was Lehua on April 11. She is thought to have died from lungworm spread by rats, Mortemore said. A tissue sample was sent off to confirm the suspicion, but results are not back yet.

The staff does its best to kill rats, but the 22-acre zoo is in a rain forest, Mortemore said. "This is a jungle up here," he said.

Around April 29, Ikaika disappeared. The staff searched two days before they found him. Based on how he appeared before he went missing, it is thought that he died from heart or kidney failure. But his body was too badly decomposed when found to make a determination.

The staff had done everything veterinarians advised, Mortemore said.

Both animals had shown nervous behavior on arrival. One zoo visitor said he used to visit the nightclub where the animals were kept in an enclosure like an aquarium. He and friends would bang on the glass until they got a reaction out of the monkeys.

"They had been inside their whole life. Their immune system may have been compromised," Mortemore said.

The story isn't completely sad. Nani, who came with the others, is doing all right, and Mike Little-Man, who came earlier, is becoming boss of the squirrel monkeys, pushing longtime resident Bubba out of the top position.

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