KNOXVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) – Zoo Knoxville suffered the loss of 33 reptiles in an incident that happened between the hours of 5 p.m. on March 21 and 8 a.m. on March 22. Exactly what occurred is under investigation and the event was isolated to one building in the reptile area.
Zoo staff entered the building on Wednesday morning and discovered 30 snakes and one lizard unresponsive.
The zoo’s animal clinic and vets from the University College of Veterinary Medicine responded immediately.
Surviving animals were evacuated and given oxygen and each unresponsive animal was checked for a heartbeat with ultrasound equipment. Of the 52 animals housed in the building, 33 died.
Iconic snakes popular with visitors, including a forest cobra and albino Eastern diamondback rattlesnake and three critically endangered species, the Louisiana pine snake, Catalina Island rattlesnake and Aruba Island rattlesnake were among the fatalities.
The building where the incident occurred has been taken out of use while officials investigate. The other buildings in the zoo’s reptile facility were not impacted and continue to be used for housing and public viewing.