Rita, India’s oldest chimpanzee, dies at Delhi Zoo

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India’s oldest chimpanzee, who had not been keeping well for over two months, died at the Delhi Zoo on Tuesday due to multiple-organ failure.

Born on December 12, 1960, in Amsterdam Zoo and acquired by the Delhi zoo in 1990, Rita, was the oldest chimp in India and probably the “oldest in Asia”, according to the Limca Book of Records.

The animal died at 12.15 pm, a Delhi zoo official said. On average, a chimpanzee has a lifespan of around 50 years. Following Rita’s death, the Delhi zoo has cancelled the inaugural function of Wildlife Week.

The 59-year-old chimpanzee, was not eating properly since July 27, and was put on a liquid diet.

“Rita had only been consuming juice, coconut water and milk with ground almonds and walnuts. We had provided her a pillow, blanket, mattress, air-mattress, waterbed and a TV for watching videos,” News agency PTI quoted Delhi Zoo’s curator Riyaz Khan as saying.

Her post-mortem was done by a panel of veterinary officials, including Nitant Paunikar from the Delhi Government’s animal husbandry department and Mrilalini Saini from the Central Zoo Authority.

“The cause of death was multiple-organ failure. The tissues of her organs have been sent to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute, Bareilly, for further examination,” Khan said.

“Rita was the eldest member of the Delhi zoo family and our constant mate for many years. Bidding a tearful farewell, the zoo staff placed a garland for to the chimp,” he said.

Earlier, veterinary specialists from Chhatbir Zoo in Chandigarh, Van Vihar National Park in Bhopal, School of Wildlife and Forensic and Health in Jabalpur, and the Lucknow Zoo visited the chimpanzee and gave suggestions for treatment.

Last week, a woman, who claims to be an animal rights activist, moved the Delhi High Court alleging negligence in Rita’s treatment. She had alleged that the zoo staff was hiding something and not giving proper treatment to the chimp.

It had prompted the Delhi zoo administration to install a CCTV camera inside Rita’s enclosure and a 55-inch TV screen outside the gate for everyone to watch how the staff was taking care of the animal.