by Max Brantley
People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals wants the USDA to investigate the recent death of a baby lemur at the Little Rock Zoo. It fell into a moat, was rescued and revived, but died of complications, possibly pneumonia.
PETA charges that the accident demonstrates a poorly designed lemur enclosure.
UPDATE: Said Zoo spokeswoman Susan Altrui:
The Little Rock Zoo is 100% compliant with federal guidelines established by the USDA for the care and exhibit of animals. The Zoo goes above and beyond those standards by maintaining accreditation with the Association of Zoos and Aquariums. PETA’s complaint is a cheap publicity stunt that capitalizes on our tragic loss of the baby lemur and is a desperate attempt to ride the coattails of the national attention given to our heroic Zoo staff who rescued the baby from the moat. PETA does not have the credibility or the qualifications to question the adequacy of the Zoo’s lemur exhibit and is using the tragedy to exploit a very emotional situation. Moated primate exhibits are common in zoos and serve as a safe, natural barrier between the animals and the public. The loss of the baby lemur is a tragic accident that is not common and not a result of negligence.
PETA NEWS RELEASE
Today, PETA filed a complaint with the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA), urging the agency to investigate the recent death of a 5-week-old ring-tailed lemur at the Little Rock Zoo. The lemur, named Houdini, fell into the water-filled moat surrounding his exhibit and nearly drowned as his parents frantically tried to reach him. A zookeeper eventually pulled Houdini out of the water and revived him, but the young animal died later, possibly of pneumonia. Since ring-tailed lemurs cannot swim, PETA is asking the USDA to determine whether the lemur exhibit's poor design—which puts the animals at risk of drowning—violates the Animal Welfare Act.
"It's heartbreaking to know that Houdini fought for his life as his parents watched helplessly, but the real tragedy is that his death was completely preventable," says PETA Director Debbie Leahy. "It's vital for the USDA to make it clear that zoos are responsible for providing safe environments for animals."