Los Fresnos News

Gladys Porter Zoo Mourns the Loss of Rare Jentink’s Duiker

JentinksCreditBROWNSVILLE, TX- DECEMBER 20, 2013-The Gladys Porter Zoo staff mourns the loss of one of its most unique and endangered creatures. Taz, a male Jentink’s duiker, passed away in his behind-the-scenes quarters during the night of Thursday, December 19. The duiker had reached an advanced age of over 17 years, and had been monitored for the past year by Zoo veterinary staff for chronic kidney disease. The necropsy, conducted earlier today, revealed that the cause of death was pneumonia brought on by failing kidneys.

He was the last known living specimen held in a Zoo anywhere in the world.

Taz was born at the Zoo on June 19, 1996 to the last wild-caught female from Africa and was sired by a Zoo-born male. After the demise of his sire in March of 2007, he became the sole animal on exhibit, and was visited by researchers and animal enthusiasts from near and far.

The International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) listed the Jentink’s duiker, Cephalophus jentinki, as one of the world’s rarest mammals. This little-known species of antelope is native to the African forests of southern Liberia, Sierra Leone and Cote d’Ivoire. Secretive in nature, the Jentink’s duiker was first discovered in the late 1800s. After that time, it was hardly seen until around 1950, when a single skull reaffirmed its existence.

Then, in September 1968, a male and two females of this species arrived in the U.S., landing at the Henry Doorly Zoo in Omaha, Nebraska. In November of 1970, the duikers reached their final destination – the soon-to-open Gladys Porter Zoo, a zoo in Brownsville, Texas, dedicated to preserving endangered species.

The Gladys Porter Zoo is the only such facility in the world to have a breeding program for this antelope; out of six founder animals, 31 offspring were produced.

“While the entire Zoo staff is saddened over the end of an era for Jentink’s duikers here, we have great hope for this species, said Dr. Pat Burchfield, Director of the Gladys Porter Zoo. As recently as last year, camera trap surveys have confirmed the presence of a small population of Jentink’s duiker living within Sierra Leone’s Western Area Peninsula Forest Reserve. Hopefully, there is enough African tropical forest and individual animals remaining that this species will be able to persevere.”

Taz will be greatly missed. Visitors who would like to pay their respects may leave cards or flowers in the Zoo office for display in the breezeway.

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