(CBS News) – A monkey that was injured trying to protect his offspring during a break-in at a Kansas zoo last month has died. Vern, a 32-year-old tufted capuchin monkey at the Wright Park Zoo in Dodge City died early Tuesday morning, the zoo wrote on Facebook. The zoo’s veterinarian was unable to revive him after finding him unresponsive.
A necropsy will be performed, but the cause of death is currently unknown.
Vern was injured as he apparently tried to protect one of his youngest sons, Pickett, from an intruder at the zoo in early September. After the break-in, Pickett was found elsewhere in the city and was returned to the zoo. Vern was found in his enclosure with what were described as “minor injuries.”
“We do not believe the little monkey, Pickett, found his way outside the enclosure on his own,” Dodge City Police Chief Drew Francis said at the time. “Nor do we believe he traveled to where he was found on his own. His father’s injury appears to be from blunt force trauma in excess of what would occur from a fall.”
The investigation to find the person who broke into the monkeys’ enclosure is ongoing.
After further treatment, veterinarians at the zoo found Vern’s injuries to be more serious, requiring surgery at Kansas State University to repair broken bones. The zoo said at the time that recovery would take 6-8 weeks.
“Vern is very protective of the younger monkey and would not have let him go without a fight,” said head zookeeper Hannah Schroeder. “Unfortunately, this suspected altercation resulted in a broken knee cap.”
Vern had one setback, requiring a cast, but zoo staff said last week that he was recovering well. He had been recovering successfully when he was found unresponsive this week.
Vern joined the zoo as a 1-year-old in 1988 along with a female monkey named Charro. The pair’s youngest sons, Jack and Pickett, are part of the zoo’s current capuchin troop. Capuchin monkey populations, native to South America, are declining due to deforestation, habitat loss and pet trading, the zoo said.
Pickett is safe and sound at the zoo, and the zoo shared a photo of him hanging in buckets and enjoying a snack Thursday morning.
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