Over the weekend, a Texas woman hopped over a barrier at the El Paso Zoo to enter the facility’s spider monkey enclosure.
“Stupid and lucky,” zoo director Joe Montisano said of the incident, which left the woman and the animals unharmed.
Video footage shared on Instagram by the Real Fit Fam El Paso account shows an individual throwing Hot Cheetos towards the animals while standing beside a waterfall in the enclosure.
“These are primates we’re talking about. They could do some substantial damage to you,” zookeeper Mason Kleist told ABC7, noting that the woman put herself in harm’s way by entering the habitat.
“They may be small monkeys, but they can take you to the ground if they wanted to,” added Kleist.
According to the zookeeper, Libby and Sunday have a specialized diet, so being fed human food could cause stomach problems and bowel disruptions for the two spider monkeys.
In addition, she put the animals at risk of contracting COVID-19 by engaging with them at a close distance.
“Anything that we have they could get as well, so COVID is no different,” Kleist told ABC 7. “We took the necessary steps to prevent them from getting that, so for someone to just go in there and give them food from their hands could just ruin that.”
Kleist also noted that the woman disrupted the zookeepers’ and monkeys’ relationship through her actions.
“It takes years to build trust with these animals, and for someone to come in there for five minutes for a video on Instagram or whatever just ruins years of work,” he said.
“It’s going to take a long time to get them back to where they were,” added Kleist.
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Montisano told Newsweek that the spider monkeys are “maybe a little shaken up by the incident but they are fine.”