What’s killing the wallabies at the Virginia Zoo?

Posted at 7:38 PM, Jan 27, 2015
and last updated 2015-01-27 19:38:13-05

Norfolk, Va. - Three wallabies are in quarantine at the Virginia zoo. They're all that's left from group of Australian natives.

A disease has killed most of the animals.

"When we bring in animals from all over the world and put them in a zoo, there are many, many diseases that they have no immunity too and are susceptible to,” says Amanda Guthrie, a Zoo Veterinarian.

It's called toxoplasmosis -- and for animals like the wallaby -- there's no cure.

"It goes into the cells and becomes intercellular, and so we have less of an ability to treat them."

The Virginia Zoo says that toxoplasmosis is actually very common here in America and that it's found right here in the soil. Most animals and humans have built up immunity to toxoplasmosis --but that's not the case for the wallabies that come from a different continent where toxoplasmosis doesn't exist.

"We try to mitigate any risks that we can mitigate while understanding that many of these animals are susceptible to diseases that they would not face in their native country,” says Guthrie.

This isn't the first time an animal has died because of disease at zoo.

Just last year, three cassowary chicks died from eastern equine encephalitis or triple E.

Executive Director Greg Bockheim says when you move an exotic animal to a new ecosystem, you encounter these kind of problems.

"I don't think the number of animals that have died here is beyond any normal population here in captivity. With any living collection, any zoo around the world experiences the same sort of things we have,” says Bockheim.

The zoo says they're going to bring in more wallabies that have been raised in North America.

The hope is that they will reproduce generations of animals immune to the disease.