Ellen Trout Zoo staff: twin cotton-top tamarin's deaths were sudden

LUFKIN, TX (KTRE) - Ellen Trout Zoo reported on Wednesday that the cotton-top tamarin monkey twin babies had died of unknown causes, in the early morning, of February 9.

Two weeks later, and the zoo staff was still grieving for the small monkeys.

Diana McKay said she cherished her job of taking home Comet and Rudolph, to continue the round the clock care the zoo provided for the twins.

"I actually feel like having an emotional bond with those animals makes you give them the best care you possibly can," McKay said.

McKay remembered leaving work with the playful, cotton top tamarin babies and feeding and checking on them throughout the night.

But, the next day was different.

"I got up and went in at 5:45 to check on them before their 6:00 feeding," McKay said. "And, they were both deceased."

The bodies were then sent off to an institution in California for a necropsy. Recently, the zoo's veterinarian, Mike Nance, received partial results.

"As we sent the tissues off, and they came back, there's concern that there was a bacterial toxemia, which the biggies would be clostridium, which is surprising," said Lance.

Nance was surprised because the babies had been on antibiotics for diarrhea. But, in the end, he knows that they did the best they could.

"The reality is babies are born, and they are either reared or they're not," Nance said. "So, the amount of deaths in the wild, I'm sure, much elevated. They're just not on camera."

In the wild, cotton-top tamarins are endangered, which has added to an already sad atmosphere.

For the zoo staff, it feels like losing members of the family.

"An event like this is very traumatic to anybody who had anything to do with them," McKay said.

Nance said that the acute or quick death of the monkeys made it even harder.

"This was not the end of a journey, this was just the beginning," Nance said. "And, we just didn't get as far as we would have liked to have gone."

Last March, KTRE conducted an open records request on the amount of deaths at the Ellen Trout Zoo from 2014 to March of 2017. According to the recorded necropsies, 124 animals died, including one cotton-top tamarin infant.