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Blank Park Zoo cited for 'critical violation' following 2022 death of Japanese snow macaque

A USDA inspection claims Blank Park Zoo staff did not monitor a heating pad used during a procedure, resulting in severe burns on the monkey's back.

DES MOINES, Iowa — Blank Park Zoo in Des Moines has been issued a "critical citation" for contributing to the death of a Japanese macaque in 2022. 

The 8-year-old snow monkey named Nico underwent an external procedure requiring anesthesia for nearly three hours on Aug. 17, 2022, according to an inspection by the U.S. Department of Agriculture

During the procedure, a heating pad was placed under the monkey's back. It remained there for the entire procedure.

Typically "the amount of heat is usually monitored by veterinary staff during a procedure," but the USDA investigation concluded Blank Park Zoo staff did not monitor the heating pad. 

This resulted in a severe burn on Nico's back, which inspectors believe later became infected and gangrenous, ultimately resulting in the zoo euthanizing the monkey on Aug. 30, 2022. 

The zoo's veterinary staff were retrained on heating pad use during the April 2023 inspection, and the official report laid out requirements for veterinary staff moving forward. 

"Each exhibitor shall establish and maintain programs of adequate veterinary care that include appropriate methods to prevent and treat diseases. Established procedures for monitoring patients under anesthesia need to be followed at all times," the inspection reads in part. 

This is the only critical citation instance for the Blank Park Zoo since at least 2014, but there have been eight noncritical citations and one teachable moment in the last decade. 

To read all the inspection reports, click here

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