She risked spreading COVID-19 to the monkeys, Libby and Sunday, a zookeeper said, not to mention personal injury.
The Texas woman seen in a video feeding hot Cheetos to spider monkeys while inside the monkey exhibit at the El Paso Zoo has been fired from her job. The law firm she had previously been employed by called her illegal entry into the enclosure “irresponsible and reckless,” and sent their thoughts out to the spider monkeys, Libby and Sunday, for the “traumatic experience.”
“The firm has always been a strong supporter of animals and animal advocacy,” Lovett Law Firm, which specializes in personal injury, said in a statement on social media. “We absolutely do not condone this irresponsible and reckless behavior.
“We support the El Paso Zoo and our thoughts go out to the spider monkeys, Libby and Sunday, and hope that they will recover from this very traumatic experience,” the statement continued.
While Lovett Law did not name the woman in the release, they confirmed that she was “terminated” after they saw that she worked at the firm.
Video footage shared on Instagram by Fit Fam El Paso showed the woman sitting under a waterfall inside the enclosure and interacting with the monkeys before wading through thigh-deep water back to the fence, where she was helped out of the spider monkey enclosure by another person.
The Instagram caption alleged that she had been feeding the spider monkeys hot Cheetos.
"This young lady decided to hop a fence, climb through some bushes, drop down into a four-feet deep moat, walk across the moat and then try to feed the spider monkeys," zoo director Joe Montisano told the El Paso Times. “It was stupid. She knew what she was doing was wrong.”
He added that the monkeys can be dangerous, and even the handlers limit their interactions with them.
“She's very fortunate that it didn't have a worse outcome for her or the animals. These are primates. They are strong. They have canine teeth. They can scratch,” Montisano said. “We don't interact with them on the daily and we don't interact with them without a barrier in between us."
Zookeeper Mason Kleist told KVIA that her proximity could have also risked transmitting COVID-19 to the monkeys.
“Anything that we have they could get as well so COVID is no different,” Kleist said. “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."
El Paso Zoo officials are now pressing charges against her after people who recognized her in the video contacted the zoo about her identity.
“We had about six to eight people call on Sunday,” Montisano said. “I know more about this young lady than I do about my own daughter probably."
He explained that they now have more security around the premises, and may make the barrier between the animals and zoo visitors higher – not to keep the monkeys in, but to keep the humans out.