Neither the high-court challenges of owner Helen Macdonald nor the on-farm protests from supporters could spare the life of Great Britain’s most famous alpaca, Geronimo. The animal, which has twice tested positive for bovine tuberculosis, was destroyed today by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) after legal battles.
Geronimo was the focus of an international campaign to keep him alive after he became stricken with the disease, formally known as Mycobacterium bovis. M. bovis is commonly found in cattle but can impact other animals such as alpaca, elk, and bison. It affects the lungs, lymph nodes, and other parts of the body, and it can pass to humans, most commonly through eating or drinking contaminated, unpasteurized dairy products.
In developed countries, millions of animals are tested for the disease each year. And in the U.S., the Cooperative State-Federal Tuberculosis Eradication Program has nearly eliminated M. bovis infection from cattle, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Geronimo was removed from a farm in Wickwar, England, with the scene being broadcast live online. His destruction was ordered by a court to help prevent the disease from spreading to other animals or to people.
Protesters camped out at the farm, hoping to prevent Geronimo from being extricated and euthanized. According to the BBC, more than 140,000 people from around the world had signed a petition against Geronimo’s destruction.
Macdonald, a veterinary nurse and the alpaca’s owner, castigated government officials and pleaded for Defra to allow Geronimo to be tested for a third time or let him live to aid research into the disease. She said she felt that the first two tests were handled incorrectly or led to a false positive.
Tissue samples from Geronimo are expected to be studied.