A female chimpanzee died after a horrific two-minute attack by the dominant male at Hamilton Zoo.
Chima, 20, had only just moved to the zoo as part of a regional breeding programme. But in a tragic turn of events, she was attacked and badly bitten after being introduced to dominant male Luka.
Zoo staff worked around the clock to try and save Chima, with several staff members sleeping next to her enclosure after the attack. Despite their efforts, Chima died on Saturday.
Zoo director Stephen Standley said a plan for integrating Chima with the other chimpanzees had been prepared well in advance of her arrival.
The plan drew on knowledge of general chimp behaviour as well as the behaviour of the individual chimps involved.
Mr Standley said a key part of the plan was to give Chima social opportunities as soon as possible, and she was successfully integrated with two females, Sally and Sanda, without incident.
The altercation with Luka lasted only two minutes and the chimpanzees were separated by keepers, he said.
Chima suffered severe bite wounds to her neck, legs and bottom and these were stitched under general anaesthetic.
She was given around the clock care over the next five days and some of the zoo team slept in the chimp house during this time.
"Sadly Chima passed away just after midnight on Saturday, and the post-mortem indicates probable cause of death was brain trauma sustained in the original attack," Mr Standley said.
"Staff at Hamilton and Wellington zoos are devastated by Chima's death.
"Chimpanzees are extremely intelligent and their behaviour can be unpredictable, especially when introducing them to new chimpanzees."
Zoo vet Mica Jensen was among those who tried to save Chima.
"Many of us spent many late nights with Chima, often sleeping in the chimp house, and setting up a mini ICU unit to try to bring her back to us.
"We even placed Sally, one of the other female chimps, in the den next to Chima to encourage her to recover.
"It was a heartbreaking night when Chima did not wake up from her final anaesthetic."
Dr Jensen thanked the team of highly trained specialists who tried to keep Chima alive.
"Hamilton Zoo would like to say thank you to all the veterinary and human medical specialists and staff who provided consultation, equipment and supplies, often at odd hours over the Easter break, to help give her the best care we could."
Staff from Massey Vet Hospital, Wildbase, Waikato Hospital, Waikato After Hours Veterinary Hospital, Gribbles Pathology, Wellington Zoo and Braemar Hospital helped.