Two of the Palm Beach Zoo‘s most popular attractions died yesterday in separate incidents as exams are being conducted by veterinarians to figure what happened.
The capybara Missy, one of the largest rodents in the world and a favorite with young visitors, was found dead in her exhibit at opening time Thursday.
And a young panther named after legendary Seminole Chief Osceola died after routine surgery about noon.
“It is heartbreaking for all of us when we lose one of our animals,” said Jan Steele, the zoo’s general curator. “It is even harder to accept when we lose two, especially such beloved and well-known animals as Missy and Osceola.”
At 11, Missy was considered to be one of the oldest capybaras in captivity and suffered from cataracts in both eyes.
She was just returned to her exhibit after some remodeling, according to zoo officials, and was in good health during her last medical checkup.
Missy was so good-natured that she was often brought to functions outside the zoo, including at the yearly black-tie fundraiser in Palm Beach.
Osceola, meanwhile, turned 1 in January. A male, Osceola came to Palm Beach after being rescued as a cub in the Pacific Northwest.
On Thursday morning, Osceola was anesthetized for a surgical procedure to treat an abscess. But, zoo officials say, within a half hour of his awakening, Osceola stopped breathing.
Vets, techs and zookeepers were unable to resuscitate him.
“It is always a shock when a young, otherwise healthy animal dies suddenly,” said Steele.
Zoo staff observed a moment of silence for the two animals Friday morning.