Experts now know what caused the death of two adorable otters last month at Brevard Zoo in Melbourne.
The North American river otters — 4-year-old Finley and 6-year-old Gladys — reportedly fell ill on Aug. 26, improved for a time, but then took a turn for the worse on Sept. 4. They died the next day.
Tests concluded that the animals had a “severe” intestinal infection caused by coccidia, a type of parasite, according to the zoo.
“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.
A picture of the otters side by side in a bucket of water accompanies the statement with the caption: “We miss this playful duo.”
The statement adds that the coccidia damaged the otters’ intestines so badly that another bacteria — Clostridium — was able to spread and produce a toxin, which proved fatal to both.
Officials say this type of coccidia species had never been identified before and are working with a veterinary team to find out how it got to the otters’ habitat.
Tests showed no toxins in the otters’ water or food, and officials believe the tragedy was “an isolated incident.”
“Losing an animal at our zoo is a tremendous loss for us as well as for our community,” the zoo said in the statement. “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.”