Animals keep dying at the Phoenix Zoo, but not from natural causes

At the time, Tinkerbell weighed 13.6 pounds. To achieve a target weight of 12 pounds, the porcupine was placed on a reduced diet of 115 grams of herbivore pellets a day, in addition to one slice each of apple, banana, carrot and zucchini, according to zoo documents obtained by New Times.

A record of feeding schedules spanning an entire year paints a disturbing picture of disregard for an animal that literally died before its handlers' eyes.

From January to December 2001, Tinkerbell's diet was dramatically decreased to 45 grams a day, a fraction of the recommended amount. Feeding charts for Tinkerbell show that, on some days, depending on the porcupine's attitude and ability to perform for crowds, food was taken away.

Phoenix Zoo feeding chart
Enlarge image
Phoenix Zoo feeding chart
Enlarge image

Terry Rishel; ©2000 Dale Chihuly

A sampling of the notations made by zoo employees shows an apparent inability to notice even minor personality changes that, if acted on at the time, might have saved the animal's life:

• January 16, 2001, receiving 80 grams of food: "Do not eat -- do not pass go -- do not collect $200 . . ."

• February 22, 80 grams: "Will cut diet starting tomorrow."

• February 25, 65 grams: "Removed some apple and banana from diet. Used her onstage for training session. Did well up until the ramp. Went about 1/2 way up, then turned around and went down."

• March 2, 55 grams: "Horrible for both shows. Was not really paying attention to me. Removed some A&B [apple and banana]."

• April 1, 50 grams: "Horrid! Would not listen or respond to anything. Wandering aimlessly. Would not eat anything. Removed apple and banana."

By July, her handlers were noticing a marked change in her behavior, but still did nothing.

• July 14, 45 grams: "Fed part of diet. Was slow."

• July 16, 45 grams: "Walked on two legs, begging (Pretty cute)."

• July 26, 50 grams: "Very hungry."

• July 27, no record of being fed: "VERY HUNGRY! Seemed agitated."

It wasn't until September that staff increased Tinkerbell's food "for a boost," but the amount still fell well below recommended levels. By this point, the porcupine was demonstrating signs of extreme hunger, as well as disorientation and weakness.

"Eating very fast," a September 21 notation reads. "Must have been hungry."

By October, the end was near. Tinkerbell fell off a table during one session. On November 3, her handlers noted that she seemed "overall somewhat lethargic."

Tinkerbell weighed 8.6 pounds at the time, according to zoo records.

On December 27, Tinkerbell made her last public performance. By this point, she could not control her bodily functions. Notes made by her handler are devastating in their ignorance.

"She was very excited to be on stage," the trainer wrote. "Urinating all over the place."

Within two weeks, Tinkerbell was dead.

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