Post-mortem examination results have shown that a nine year old alligator who passed away at the National Aquarium of New Zealand was suffering from pneumonia.
The alligator - named Fiona - shared an enclosure with another alligator, Sheryl. Aquarium Manager Rob Yarrall says staff found Fiona lying at the bottom of her pool, and immediately raised the alarm.
"She was removed from the pool and a vet was brought in to examine her. We x-rayed her to determine the extent of her illness, but by the time the results were in, she had passed away."
At the time of her death last Friday, Fiona had been receiving antibiotic treatment for a cut on her foot, but was otherwise "in perfect condition."
"The post-mortem showed there was a bacterial infection, along with fluid on the lungs and around the heart. Unfortunately, reptiles are experts at masking any illness, which is great self-protection when they live in the wild, but when you're an alligator living in an aquarium, it's very difficult for keepers to tell if there are any health issues."
As alligators are solitary by nature, the death had not had a noticeable impact on companion Sheryl, says Mr Yarrall.
Staff were coping with the news, "but as with any unexpected death here at the Aquarium, it has been sad for them. We have an excellent record in animal health, and were the first aquarium in New Zealand to receive a ZAA accreditation for the health and wellbeing of the animals. But we do need to remember that with over 2,500 live animals on site, there are naturally going to be deaths from time to time."
Fiona's body remains at the Aquarium for now, although the Ministry for Primary Industries "may instruct us on that matter, as alligators are considered a restricted organism."