A pair of critically endangered cotton-top tamarins died of exposure last week at a zoo in Louisiana after accidentally being left outside in subfreezing temperatures. The needless tragedy comes as no small blow to what is one of the world's rarest primates, numbering as few as 8,000 on earth.
City officials charged with overseeing the Alexandria Zoological Park have not revealed why the small South American monkeys were not protected from the frigid weather last Wednesday, but claimed that they were "the caretaker's responsibility."
"The incident is under investigation," Public Works director David Gill told The Town Talk. "The employee, who was initially on administrative leave and had been removed from any animal care, has resigned. This appears to have happened as a result of human error and not a system problem."
PETA activists have since called upon the U.S. Department of Agriculture to investigate whether the "error" that caused the monkeys' untimely passing constitutes a violation of animal welfare laws.
"These tamarins lived a sad life of deprivation in captivity, and their deaths were totally preventable," PETA deputy general counsel Delcianna Winders said in response, adding "this fatal neglect is all too common in zoos and other places where animals are displayed for human amusement."
Sadly, facilities where animals are kept captive are prone to preventable accidents that can result in tragic losses.
Earlier this month, 27 animals died at a South Carolina animal park after a fire broke out in the early hours. While the cause of the blaze has yet to be determined, the facility was not equipped with a smoke alarm, nor was an overnight caretaker on hand, both of which might have helped prevent the dozens of lives from being lost. Shockingly, however, neither precautions are required by law.