A dye used to mark zoo animals may have killed five meerkats at Philadelphia Zoo in the United States. On June 1, four meerkats died; the fifth died earlier this week.
The five meerkats – siblings named Nkosi, Lula, Ari, Kgala, and Nya – had been at the zoo since 2013.
“We lost five meerkats between June 1 and Monday,” Amy Shearer, the zoo’s chief experience officer, told news network CNN. “The entire zoo staff is devastated.”
Shearer said that the dye is Nyanzol D, an agricultural dye the zoo has used for over 30 years to help differentiate some of the animals. “We are investigating the possibility that the dye may have caused a toxic reaction in the meerkats,” Shearer added.
The dye is also used on the zoo’s small primates, but for now, the use of Nyanzol D has been suspended. Shearer said that none of the other animals at the zoo are currently sick.
The root cause of the fatal incidents remains unclear. It could be attributed to the dye itself, the specific batch of dye used, or its application. Shearer emphasized that the Philadelphia Zoo needs to uncover what happened and that the information is vital for other institutions using similar practices.