Henry Vilas Zoo Mourns Loss of Casey the Chimpanzee

March 06, 2013
Carrie Springer, Office of the County Executive 608.267.8823 or cell, 608.843.8858
County Executive


Henry Vilas Zoo is mourning the loss of Casey, a 31-year-old male chimpanzee, who passed away following a physical examination and diagnostic procedures. The examination was part of a preventive medicine program to evaluate his general health and was a collaborative effort between Henry Vilas Zoo animal and medical staff and the UW School of Veterinary Medicine, including Board Certified Veterinarians in Zoological Medicine, Anesthesiology, and Cardiology.


The tests included blood collection to evaluate liver, kidney, and other organ function, and to test for diabetes and other metabolic diseases.  Cardiac ultrasound and x-rays were taken to assess heart health.  Casey passed away during the anesthetic recovery process.


“Casey was a well-loved animal and a favorite of many at our zoo. He will be dearly missed by zoo staff and the community,” said Ronda Schwetz, Zoo Director.


A complete post-mortem diagnostic work-up is being done at the UW School of Veterinary Medicine according to the protocol of the Association of Zoos and Aquariums Chimpanzee Species Survival Plan (SSP), which will be used to determine the cause of his passing. 


Data collected during the procedure will also contribute to the Great Ape Heart Project, which addresses the critical need to investigate and understand cardiovascular disease, a common occurrence in great apes such as chimpanzees, orangutans, and gorillas.


The project was established to create and maintain a centralized database that can help analyze cardiac data and coordinate cardiac-related research activities, while vastly improving communication among zoos and sanctuaries where apes are housed.  The data will help individual animals, as well as enhance a body of knowledge that will benefit zoos nationwide.