Chattanooga Zoo Director Darde Long told a state official not to release the necropsies of the seven animals that died at the zoo in December and January, said the official, a spokeswoman for the University of Tennessee College of Veterinary Medicine.
Sandra Harbison, the spokeswoman, said the forensic cause-of-death analyses are governed under the Tennessee Veterinary Practices Act, which she described as the animal equivalent of Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act.
HIPAA was designed to protect the privacy of individually identifiable health information for humans.
Harbison said the veterinary version of the privacy act protects "the client," and the client is the Chattanooga Zoo at Warner Park.
Long did not return calls for comment Wednesday.
Robin Derryberry, spokeswoman for the zoo and a board member of the Friends of the Zoo, the organization that oversees the zoo, insists the reports will be released.
"As soon as the zoo receives the final necropsy reports, copies will be sent to you," Derryberry said. "The zoo has not received the final reports, only initial information at this point. As promised, the media will receive the complete reports as soon as the zoo receives them."
Harbison said the UT vet school's turnaround time for final report necropsies is several weeks.
"Our target is four to six weeks to have a final report out," she said. "Of course, some take months."
The preliminary report on Hank the chimp, who was found dead early Monday morning, indicates the 42-year-old ape suffered heart trouble, according to a Tuesday interview with Long and Mickey Myers, a veterinarian and board member of the Friends of the Zoo.
Myers said the preliminary results from the necropsies of two marmosets showed a hepatitis virus carried by mice. Four other zoo animals have died in recent weeks.