Parasite killed 2 otters at Florida zoo, officials say

MELBOURNE, Fla. — A pair of North American river otters that died last month at a Florida zoo succumbed to a “severe” intestinal infection caused by a parasite, officials said.

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According to a blog post by the Brevard Zoo, Gladys, 6, and Finley, 4, died Sept. 5 from an infection caused by coccidia, a type of parasite. Zoo officials said a previous routine fecal exam, done five months earlier, did not show any evidence of the infection.

The otters became ill on Aug. 26, according to the Miami Herald. Their conditions improved for a while but took a turn for the worse on Sept. 4, the newspaper reported.

“The coccidia parasite caused major damage to the otters’ intestinal tracts, disrupting normal functions and creating an imbalance in the intestinal tract,” the zoo said in a statement posted on its blog.

Zoo officials said the coccidia parasite caused “major damage” to the otters’ intestinal tracts. That allowed a Clostridium bacteria to spread, zoo officials said. The bacteria produced a toxin that zoo officials believe spread and led to the animals’ deaths.

Officials said they believed the otters’ deaths were an “isolated incident,” adding that the bacteria had never been identified before.

Zoo officials said they are working with a veterinary team to determine how the bacteria got to the otters’ habitat, the Herald reported.

“Losing an animal at our zoo is a tremendous loss for us as well as for our community,” zoo officials wrote in a blog post. “Finding answers to the cause of an animal’s death is not always easy, but we strive to learn more about the animals in our care upon their passing. We were fortunate in this case to receive answers and hope that by learning more about this unknown coccidia species, we can help inform animal care research worldwide.”

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