CHARLOTTE, NC – Zookeepers at the River Zoo in Charlotte have expressed growing concerns about the animals’ access to snack foods from vending machines located directly in their enclosures. One caretaker went so far as to say that the recent rise in obesity among the animals was related to the newfound food source.
“These are foods, if you can even call them that, intended for human consumption,” said vertabratologist Samuel Gifford. “Cassowaries and bears were never meant to have candy bars, potato chips and soda. We have few long-term studies on what the impact will be.”
Mounting economic pressures on the zoo prompted the board of directors to allow the installation of the machines to offset the high cost of feeding and upkeep. Meanwhile, medical care for a wide range of animals has skyrocketed. Custom insulin pumps for elephants, for example, are markedly more expensive than those for humans.
“They’re getting fat, they’re having high blood pressure, diabetes, joint disease, lethargy in animals we’ve never observed it in before,” said Gifford. “At least we managed to keep the cigarette machines out.”
Patrons of the zoo briefly ran a campaign to remove the vending machines, but representatives from the High Fructose Corn Syrup for America Choice Freedom Foundation (HFCSACFF) wore them down.
Zoo personnel had missed early signs because they see the animals daily, but changing behavior brought the issue to the forefront.
“Season pass holders reported to us that the giraffes had potbellies. There were snakes that couldn’t bend. Marmosets were begging for change, and the wildebeests were crankier than usual.”