"Toxic agent" at the source of mass reptile death at Zoo Knoxville


Zoo Knoxville says they now know a "toxic agent" caused the deaths of the 34 reptiles in one of its reptile buildings in March.

No animals have been housed in that reptile building since then, and the zoo said Friday the building will no longer be used to house animals.

"Necropsies of the affected animals showed many animals had swollen blood vessels and changes in the liver and the heart," the zoo said in a news release Friday morning.

Originally, the zoo said 33 reptiles died overnight in late March. Zoo Knoxville President and CEO Lisa New later said the number was actually 32. On Friday, the zoo said 34 reptiles died.

"We had hoped for a definitive answer to what happened so we can make sure it never occurs again," New said in a statement Friday. "Unfortunately, there is no clear-cut answer to this situation and therefore we will not take the risk of housing animals in this building. While this does affect the number of animals we have on view in the short term, this will in no way impact the internationally recognized work our herpetologists do to save critically endangered reptiles. That will continue. If there is a positive to come from this, it is the affirmation that the conservation work we do is important to our community, and it strengthens our commitment and urgency to construct a new, state-of-the-art reptile education center as part of our current capital campaign."

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