Death of 5 meerkats at Philadelphia Zoo under investigation

11 April 2023, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Rostock: Two meerkats are on the move in the enclosure at the press event for the presentation of the new meerkat group at the zoo. The new family clan consists of one female and three males. The first of

A tragic and worrying loss at the Philadelphia Zoo has left an exhibit completely empty, and filled shocked staff and fans with several unanswered questions.

Five meerkats - Nkosi, Lula, Nya, Kgala and Ari - died at the zoo last week in a span of just 36 to 48 hours.

Officials suspect the animals were poisoned, possibly linking the deaths to dye markers used to identify the nearly identical meerkats. A zoo spokesperson said the official cause of death has yet to be determined.

Rachel Metz, Vice President of Animal Well-Being, says she is shocked, because they have used the Nyzanzol-D markers for over 20 years.

She told FOX 29 she suspects something different happened.

An investigation is currently being conducted with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums and the U.S. Department of Agriculture. 


Nkosi was the first meerkat to die as the others showed signs of acute illness, including throwing up black matter, minutes later.

"Although the staff had acted accordingly to animal health and safety protocols, ultimately they could not save them," Metz said.

The fan-favorite meerkats had called Philadelphia Zoo home since 2013, and were hard to tell apart because of how close they became.

Metz said they "played and scattered about their mazes, always enjoying the company of each other and their visitors."

Metz says she hopes the zoo will have more meerkats in the future.

Editor's note: This post previously attributed the meerkat deaths to poisoning. The Philadelphia Zoo clarified that while poisoning is a possibility, the official cause of death is still under investigation.