Zoo mourns the death of 3-year-old bonobo amid RSV outbreak

Amali, a 3-year-old bonobo at the Cincinnati Zoo, has died.
Amali, a 3-year-old bonobo at the Cincinnati Zoo, has died.(Cincinnati Zoo & Botanical Garden)
Published: Nov. 21, 2023 at 3:16 PM CST
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CINCINNATI (WXIX/Gray News) – A bonobo at the Cincinnati Zoo has died after battling respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), zoo officials announced Monday.

The zoo said 3-year-old Amali received a week of supportive care before her death.

The zoo said the bonobos, a type of primate also known as pygmy chimpanzees, suffered an RSV outbreak within their troop.

Bonobos are susceptible to RSV and secondary infections. Young bonobos are at an even higher risk of complications, the zoo said.

Zoo officials said bonobos are incredibly intelligent and have a tight-knit social group, so the team allowed every bonobo to say goodbye to Amali and start the grieving process.

According to zookeepers, the entire bonobo troop “adored” Amali.

“It’s hard for everyone, and while her keepers and troop continue to grieve the loss, we’re comforted by the idea that she is reunited with her father Vernon. And despite only being 3, she has inspired countless guests to take action to help wild bonobos,” a news release said.

Zookeepers lovingly called Amali by her nickname, “Lil Bit,” and said she was always eager to interact with them. They would often see her arm waving, trying to get their attention.

“People say the best things come in small packages and after working with Amali I’m here to tell you... they’re right. Amali was small but mighty. She had a huge personality,” one of her keepers said.

Zookeepers are prioritizing supportive care for the rest of the bonobos that are showing RSV symptoms. However, they said they are seeing signs of recovery in the rest of the animals and remain hopeful that the infection has mostly run its course.