A cheetah died last November due to consuming parts of a lunch box that was dropped into his enclosure at Montgomery Zoo & Mann Wildlife Learning Museum in Alabama.
The U.S. Department of Agriculture said two people riding over the top of the cheetah enclosure on the skylift, a ride suspended in the air throughout the zoo, yelled to a zoo veterinarian that they dropped a lunch box into the cheetah enclosure in Nov. 2022.
The vet contacted animal care staff who quickly removed the lunch box. The male cheetah, named Santiago, had already consumed parts of the insulated lunch box and the food inside.
The USDA report indicates that despite extensive monitoring and veterinary care Santiago died a few days later. A necropsy revealed large amounts of undigested lunch box material in his stomach.
The USDA noted Montgomery Zoo must ensure the animals are handled and exhibited in a manner that assures the safety of the animals and the public. Montgomery Zoo was cited with a critical violation for the cheetah’s death.
Montgomery Zoo was also cited with a non critical violation for two indoor primate enclosures that were showing signs of disrepair including rusty wires, excessive paint chipping and missing grout. The USDA noted the areas may harbor bacteria and paint chips could pose a health hazard if ingested.
Montgomery Zoo has had previous issues with its skylift. In March 2022, the skylift broke and riders became stuck. Montgomery Fire and Rescue used an aerial ladder to rescue 10 people in various locations on the zoo grounds.