A Zoo Miami meerkat named Gizmo died over the weekend after being stuck in a tunnel that collapsed in his habitat, according to zoo officials.
It’s the second time this type of accident occurred in a little more than a year. Last July, a 6-month-old meerkat named Ginger died in a tunnel collapse.
Meerkats, according to Zoo Miami spokesman Ron Magill, are constantly digging tunnels and says the recent rain likely caused the ground to cave on top of him.
Magill said Gizmo’s death has prompted staff to close the habitat, shut off the MeerKam — 24/7 coverage of the animals — and review all of its policies to protect the animals.
“It is something we need to learn to mitigate,” Magill said. “We need to reevaluate the protocols. We need to be providing an added layer of protection for these animals.”
On Sunday, zookeepers doing their normal rounds couldn’t find Gizmo — who was born at the Brevard Zoo in October of 2013 and arrived at Zoo Miami in June of 2018 — anywhere. They finally found his body in what appeared to be a collapsed tunnel.
Magill noted that zookeepers “are very diligent about manually collapsing all the tunnels within the habitat at the end of each day in order to prevent the tragedy that apparently struck Gizmo.”
“Unfortunately, because the meerkats are constantly digging, another tunnel may have been quickly constructed following the keeper maintenance routine and sadly, because of the excessive rain we have experienced the last several days, it was unstable and collapsed,” Magill said in a news release.
The meerkat exhibit — there are four remaining — has been a popular zoo attraction since they arrived in 2000. It was not clear how long the meerkats would be out of the public eye.
“It is always sad when any animal dies,” Magill said. “But it makes it harder when they die in a tragic way.”