Zoo mourns death of beloved ape

SPRINGFIELD -- The affects of Lucu's unexpected death yesterday are already being felt at the Dickerson Park Zoo. He and his mate Mikayli, are both part of a program to help repopulate their species, which is classified as endangered. It's a species that also mates for life.

On Saturday, zookeepers along with Mikayli were left to figure out what's next as they remembered their dear friend.

"There's moments when you think about it, and you know, it's hard," said zookeeper Brock Andrus emotionally.

Andrus is the Assistant Asia Area Zookeeper, and was the main caretaker of the zoo's pair of Siamang Gibbons. He says the loss of Luku has hit him hard because they shared a special bond.

"Lucu was one of my favorite animals," said Andrus. He was a really sweet, gentle, Siamang. Most Siamangs are really aggressive, he was just the gentlest little Siamang I've ever met."

Zookeepers say, 12-year-old Luku, a Siamang ape, died Friday from an acute bacterial infection that did not respond to treatment.

They say, they aren't the only ones affected by his sudden death.

The two have been inseparable since arriving at DIckerson Park Zoo 6 years ago.
Siamangs are known for being monogamous and mate for life.
Brock says they're now taking extra precautions and watching her closing.

Andrus said, "Every moment I have, I'm basically with her. Just, wanting her to feel like she's not alone."

But Luku and Milkayli were also part of something bigger. The two apes were matched by geneticists affiliated with the Species Survival Plan or SSP - an organization that helps endangered animals increase their numbers.
Part of that means ensuring social interaction with other apes.
A problem for Mikayli - now that she's left alone.

"It's whatever SSP says," Andrus said. "We don't know how long it could take."

But Brock says they will do all they can to take good care of Mikayli.

Zoo officials say Mikayli might get a new mate or be relocated to another zoo.

Read the original version of this article at www.ky3.com.