Dublin Zoo keeper reveals her horror at ‘painful, terrible’ death of Harry the gorilla

Last week Senator Annie Hoey read out a whistleblower’s statement on alleged animal abuse at Dublin Zoo
Yvonne McCann at the zoo

Yvonne McCann at the zoo

Yvonne McCann says that she bonded with Harry

Yvonne McCann says that she bonded with Harry

Yvonne McCann with a penquin

Yvonne McCann with a penquin

Alison O'ReillySunday World

The heartbroken keeper who cared for Dublin Zoo’s former star attraction Harry the silverback gorilla in his final days, said she was “horrified at the painful death he suffered”.

Veterinary Nurse Yvonne McCann was one of the main zoo-keepers in the Primates enclosure in Dublin Zoo between 2014 and 2016 and was in the charity for 12 years.

During that time, she built up a deep bond with the 250-kilo silverback gorilla Harry, who she believes was more like a “person than an animal”

Last week, Harry’s final days featured in explosive testimony in the Seanad where Labour Senator Annie Hoey read out a whistleblower’s statement about alleged animal abuse at Dublin Zoo.

Speaking under Seanad privilege, Senator Hoey detailed how the whistleblower has claimed that Harry suffered a painful death and that warnings about his health were ignored by Zoo management.

The Zoo subsequently released a statement saying they ‘vehemently disputes unfounded allegations of mistreatment of animals’.

Today, Yvonne McCann has broken her silence to reveal she was “delighted” the Irish public got to hear a snapshot of how Harry died and that she was happy Senator Hoey spoke up in the Seanad.

She said: “On my dying bed, I will still be heartbroken over Harry’s death. He wasn’t well for around two months before he died. I have a tattoo with his date of death. I loved him. The grief I feel for him is like nothing I have ever experienced or will ever experience.

“I logged my concerns in the daily Zims (Zoological Information Management System) reports about Harry. I knew he wasn’t himself... I don’t know why, they said they could do nothing for him, but he should have been put to sleep and not left there”.

Yvonne McCann says that she bonded with Harry

Yvonne McCann says that she bonded with Harry

Yvonne said she remains in counselling “to this day over Harry”.

She said: “He had a terrible death. In the end I sat with him and said, ‘please just go’ I told him I loved him and I would make sure he was remembered...His partner Lena and his babies came to see him when he died.Lena has died since and a lot of her babies.”

In the Seanad on Thursday, Senator Hoey detailed heartbreaking claims by a whistleblower about the mistreatment of animals in the Zoo.

Yvonne said: “Harry was a Silverback male gorilla and died on the 29th of May 2016. Keepers consistently raised concerns leading up to his death.

Following her testimony, Dublin Zoo said in a statement that it allegations of mistreatment of animals “are wholly misleading” and “contain inaccurate clinical assessments.”

Yvonne McCann with a penquin

Yvonne McCann with a penquin

However, Yvonne’s concerns about Harry were included in Dublin Zoo’s Zims reports seen by this paper.

Zims reports are a database of the animal’s history and day to day care that can be viewed by management and other zoos around the world.

In a statement about the Zims reports, the Zoo said: “Where you refer to specific instances in the treatment of particular animals it is possible that such information may have been gleaned from daily animal reports.

“It is critical to understand however that these represent only a snapshot in time of a particular animal’s welfare.”

She told us, “I knew Harry wasn’t well. It’s there in the database.

“He was 29, silverbacks they live until their 40s. There was no change in food, staff or his home. So, it had to be something else... I thought it warranted further investigation.

“No vet came until the very end. And there were very obvious signs of physical illness.

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