Five meerkats dead in suspected dye poisoning at Philadelphia Zoo

All five meerkats at Philadelpha Zoo have died within a matter of days, leading zoo officials to suspect that a dye may have poisoned them.

The small members of the mongoose family from southern Africa all became sick and died within less than a month.

Named Nkosi, Lula, Nya, Kgala, and Ari, they all were brought to the zoo in 2013 as siblings.

A necropsy is pending, but officials believe they may have accidentally consumed a dye used to mark them.

“We suspect that they may have accidentally consumed something toxic,” said Amy Shearer from Philadelphia Zoo.

She said the dye used to mark and differentiate animals, Nyanzol-D, is specifically thought to be the culprit.

“We have used this animal dye… for over 30 years,” she told CBS News.

Rachel Metz, the zoo’s vice-president of animal wellbeing, said staff were struggling to cope with the deaths.

“Our staff spend more time with these animals than they do with their own families or even their pets at home,” she told Philadelphia ABC affiliate Action News.