Popular Antelope Dies in Tennessee Zoo After Choking on Pouch

At the Brights Zoo in Tennessee, Lief, an African antelope, 7, died after suffocating on a plastic cap off a meal pouch. The Limestone, Tennessee zoo, which is privately owned, posted about the event on social media, explaining that the cap had been tossed into the animal’s cage, even though it is clearly prohibited near the habitats of the animals. 

The rare Central African antelope species known as the sitatunga has an average life expectancy of around 22 years when kept in captivity. The sitatunga is rated as “least concern” by the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute due to its abundant numbers in their native habitats.

Pouch packing is not allowed on zoo premises due to the danger it presents to the animals. These caps look like food to animals.

Lief died on June 8, 2024. He was born on July 30, 2016. The zoo called in a veterinarian for the clearly distressed animal. Once anesthetized, the veterinarian found a plastic cap blocking his airway. Despite the effective removal of the obstruction, he passed away. Two more squeezable food pouches were found in a toilet trash can, and one was recovered in the exhibit. 

People who do not follow the rules can end up killing an animal, which was the case in this incident.

The zoo was established in 2007 after Tony Bright bought two zebras as a wedding present for his wife Connie on their 25th wedding anniversary. The property had previously been a racehorse farm. About half of the 128 creatures kept at the for-profit institution are fragile or endangered animals. This results in a monthly visitation count of 15,000 to 20,000 for the facility.

Scientists from the Plastic Health Council, who are pushing for a global ban on some plastics’ harmful compounds, believe that animals all around the globe ingest plastic trash every day. Every year, people manufacture more than 2,500 billion plastic bottle caps, an astonishing rate of production. Unwanted plastic, which comes in billions of small bits, is certain to hurt animals on land and in our waters.