In what can only be described as a truly harrowing scene, a team of herpetologists at Zoo Knoxville in Tennessee came into work March 22 to discover that 33 of their reptiles had died overnight.
A total of 52 animals lived inside the particular building where the incident took place, meaning that more than half of the lives were lost. In a Facebook post, Zoo Knoxville explained, "The zoo’s vet team responded immediately, evacuating animals, giving them oxygen, and checking unresponsive animals for heartbeats with an ultrasound."
On this "difficult" and "heartbreaking day," particularly for the herpetologists, the zoo lost a variety of species, including critically endangered ones, such as the Louisiana pine snake, the Catalina Island rattlesnake, and the Aruba Island rattlesnake.
"We don't know exactly what occurred to cause this terrible event, but we do know it was isolated to a single building," the zoo stated, adding that the team would continue its investigations.
According to the Knoxville News Sentinel, Zoo Knoxville President and CEO Lisa New said that officials believe the deaths were due to "an environmental cause" rather than disease.
In a Facebook video post, New further elaborated that, after a series of testing, food-related issues, foul play, disease, infections, and carbon monoxide poisoning have been ruled out as the cause of death.
The building where the incident occurred is closed while the zoo conducts the investigation and necropsies, but its other herpetology buildings remain open.
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