Rare antelope chokes to death on plastic cap at Tennessee zoo

<span>Lief, a sitatunga antelope, choked to death on the plastic cap of a squeezable snack pouch at Brights zoo in Limestone, Tennessee.</span><span>Photograph: Brights Zoo</span>
Lief, a sitatunga antelope, choked to death on the plastic cap of a squeezable snack pouch at Brights zoo in Limestone, Tennessee.Photograph: Brights Zoo

A rare antelope has choked to death on the plastic cap of a squeezable snack pouch at a zoo in Tennessee, according to zoo staff.

Leif, a seven-year-old sitatunga antelope, was seen acting strangely in his enclosure at the Bright zoo on Saturday, with fluid leaking from his mouth.

A veterinarian was called to the creature to try to dislodge the plastic cap, which came from from a squeeze fruit snack pouch that is not allowed at the zoo, which is located in Limestone, north of Knoxville.

“Some ask why we don’t allow squeezable pouches into the zoo. The reason is simple - the packaging is dangerous to our animals,” Bright zoo, a private zoo that has a variety of exotic species, posted on its Facebook page.

“If you look at these lids from an animal perspective it looks like food. This is what forced us to do bag searches but yet some people find ways to sneak these in.”

David Bright, director of the zoo, told CBS that the cap “had to be thrown” as there was no other way for it to land in the enclosure containing Leif, his female mate and several other animals. No one has come forward to own up to the incident, Bright said, adding: “I would respect the person more if they came forward and took responsibility.”

Sitatunga antelope are swamp-dwelling animals found in the wild in central Africa, with males like Leif possessing curved horns. Leif’s female companion has been left wandering around looking for him, baffled by his absence, Bright said.

The antelope would have been expected to reach the age of about 20 years in captivity.