Metro Zoo cheetah cub most likely died of bacterial infection

Source: Metro Richmond Zoo
Source: Metro Richmond Zoo

CHESTERFIELD, VA (WWBT) - Officials with the Metro Richmond Zoo say a 7 month old cheetah cub most likely died because of an acute bacterial infection that started in her GI tract.

Hanna died unexpectedly back on May 4. Zoo officials say she was acting totally normal with no symptoms prior to her death. The veterinarian performed a necropsy and found her to be in good body condition with no evidence of trauma. Initial findings on the necropsy indicated she may have had a heart condition. During her several previous checkups, she never had any coughing, weakness or a heart murmur. Multiple organ tissue samples were sent for analysis by pathologists. We have also been in contact with veterinarians, internists, pathologists and cheetah specialists throughout the country who have helped analyze the test results. They say findings did show that she had some mild heart problems; however, this was not the cause of her death.

Additional samples and cultures were sent to the lab to try to determine the source of the bacteria, but they came back inconclusive. Hanna was known for liking to chew on things, so one thought is that she could have chewed on or eaten something outside and picked up a bacterium that naturally exists in the environment. We suspect her immune system might have been compromised because she had a heart condition and was the runt of the litter, thus, making her more susceptible to a bacterial infection.

"We all wanted an exact answer to this tragic event, but unfortunately we have to accept that life and death are not always fully understood.  The kind and supportive words from the public have helped the staff deal with this loss.  Hanna will be greatly missed, " said Jim Andelin.

We have tested the other cubs for GI tract pathogens, and the results came back negative. We are continuing to watch them closely.

Copyright 2014 WWBT NBC12. All rights reserved