TOPEKA (KSNT) – The Topeka Zoo announced the passing of a beloved Virginia opossum named Oliva on Tuesday.
Olivia arrived at the zoo in March of 2021 from a local wildlife rescue. Olivia’s age was unknown but opossums have a short lifespan of two to three years in the wild and a life expectancy of four years when in human care, according to a social media post from the zoo.
The humane decision to euthanize Oliva was made because her mobility and breathing were becoming limited.
“Olivia loved spending time in her den, eating grapes, and would allow her keepers to brush her for grooming,” the zoo said.
Olivia taught visitors the importance of stopping to let wildlife cross roads, showed guests why opossums are needed and was an ambassador for her species, according to the zoo’s social post.
Opossums are helpful to the environment because they collect ticks when walking in tall grasses. They later eat the ticks when grooming. Opossums carry special antibodies to fight tick-borne illnesses. Opossums also carry antibodies to help survive snake bites. The antibodies have been used to research snake bite treatments for humans.