The heartbroken keeper, who has been caring for Harry the silverback gorilla, former Dublin Zoo’s star attraction, in his final days, said she was “appalled at the agonizing death he has suffered”.
Veterinarian Yvonne McCann was one of the main keepers in the primate enclosure at Dublin Zoo between 2014 and 2016 and was with the charity for 12 years.
During that time, she formed a deep bond with 550-pound silverback gorilla Harry, whom she believes was “more human than animal.”
Last week, Harry’s tragic final days were mentioned in explosive testimony in the Seanad, where Labor Senator Annie Hoey read a whistleblower’s testimony into alleged animal abuse at Dublin Zoo.
Speaking under Seanad’s privilege, Senator Hoey detailed how the whistleblower has claimed Harry died a painful death and warnings about his health were ignored by zoo management.
The zoo then released a statement saying it “vehemently denies unfounded allegations of animal abuse.”
Today Yvonne McCann broke her silence to reveal she was “delighted” that the Irish public heard a snap of Harry dying and was glad Senator Hoey had his say at the Seanad.
She said: “On my deathbed I will still be heartbroken at Harry’s death. He was not well for about two months before he died. I have a tattoo with the date of his death. I loved him. The sorrow I feel for him is like nothing I have ever experienced or ever will experience.
“I entered my concerns into the daily Zims (Zoological Information Management System) reports on Harry. I knew he was gone; I knew he wasn’t himself… I said it wouldn’t put him to sleep and I don’t know why, they said there was nothing they could do for him but he should have been put to sleep and not left there.
Yvonne said she is in counseling “to this day because of Harry”.
She said: “He had a terrible death. In the end, I sat with him and said, “Please just go.” I told him that I love him and that I would make sure he was remembered… And I made a pact with him that I would stay with him to the end would. His partner Lena and their babies were visiting him when he died. His daughter went out on the island and wailed like something I’ve never heard before or want to hear again. Lena has since died and many of her babies.”
In Thursday’s Seanad, Senator Hoey detailed heartbreaking allegations by a whistleblower about animal abuse at the zoo.
Yvonne said: “Harry was a male silverback gorilla and died on May 29, 2016. Concerns have been raised by zoo keepers in the run-up to his death.
“The keepers have repeatedly asked for a vet to examine him. And finally, a vet was called and he died shortly thereafter, negatively affecting the rest of the squad.
“This is one of the most difficult stories for me to hear from the many staff I have spoken to as the pain in their voices at how he was treated and the time leading up to his death was unbearable. And… I’ve cleaned up the details here as I don’t think I could read them all out. But I saw the photos of Harry at the end and he suffered a lot.”
According to her statement, Dublin Zoo said in a statement that the allegations of animal mistreatment were “completely misleading” and “contain inaccurate clinical assessments”.
However, Yvonne’s concerns about Harry were echoed in Dublin Zoo’s Zims reports, which were seen by this newspaper.
Zims Reports is a database of the animal’s history and daily care that can be consulted by management and other zoos around the world.
In a statement on the Zims reports, the zoo said: “If you are referring to specific cases in the treatment of specific animals, it is possible that that information came from daily animal reports.
“However, it is important to understand that these only represent a snapshot in time of the welfare of a particular animal.”
Harry’s ZIMS report on March 6, 2016 shows that Yvonne reported concerns that “Harry has been a little ‘clicky’ lately. He also plucks and pulls on his right forearm. I try to keep him busy with other activities.”
The next day, she raised another concern, saying: “Harry was a little out of shape this morning but improved in the afternoon. He still has small wounds on his right arm. At the beginning of the day he often put his ears back.”
The next five records made by Yvonne highlight further concerns about Harry that he was still “cupped ears”, “had no interest in exercising”, “went to bed early” and was “out of shape”.
As of March 23, 2016, according to Yvonne’s notes, there are still issues with Harry’s behavior
On May 23, 2016, Harry had diarrhea and is on record that a vet advised him to give him fluids, bananas, melon and biscuits in addition to his regular diet.
As of May 25, records show that Harry’s health is deteriorating and Yvonne makes several comments about him being “extremely unwell”.
She told us: “I knew Harry was not well. It’s there in the database.
“He was out of shape. I knew he wasn’t right. Harry had this thing – when he was in bad shape – he would sit down and cover his ears. As a side note, it might have been sensory overload blocking things. But I knew he wasn’t himself. Harry would sell his soul for onions and he didn’t have it. You would know he wasn’t enjoying the grapes and onions when you gave them to him.
“It struck me that he didn’t want to train, or if he did he would half-do it. I started writing it down, maybe someone needs to look it up. He wasn’t in top form.
“It was about two months before he died. I kept writing it down. I hoped someone would ask me about it.
“He wasn’t an old animal, he was 29, silverbacks live into their 40s. There was no change in food, staff or his home. So it had to be something else, something was wrong… I thought it warranted further investigation.
“No vet came until the end. And there were very obvious signs of physical illness.
“I remember clearly about a week before a vet was called, but by then he was very ill. He had liquid diarrhea; something was wrong here. I asked can someone please help him, it’s not right. It’s Harry, we owed him something, we have to do something.
“I know Harry was so disappointed. I now know that animals should not be in zoos, they are not for captivity, call it what you will, enclosure, security, conservation, but an animal should be in the wild. Actually, when I came to the zoo, I knew it was wrong to be there, but I was a young college student. I went to Harry. That was the end for me.
“The person who owns the keys determines your life. The zoo decides when you eat, where you live, with whom you breed, and your entire life is dedicated to you. They have no choice. We owed Harry so much more and I will never get over him. Never. I pray for him, I’m glad he’s dead because he’s free, no more discipline, no more confinement and no more control.”
https://www.independent.ie/news/dublin-zoo-keeper-reveals-her-horror-at-painful-terrible-death-of-harry-the-gorilla-41856813.html The Dublin Zookeeper reveals her shock at the ‘painful, horrible’ death of Harry the gorilla