Two tiny endangered monkeys died at a Louisiana zoo last week after being left out in the cold overnight, as temps dipped into the 30s F. A third monkey survived the exposure, and the zoo caretaker responsible for the deaths has since resigned. People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) is calling for a probe into the deaths to determine if the incident is an indication of wider-spread problems at the zoo.

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The cotton-top tamarins are an endangered species of monkeys, weighing less than one pound and easily identified by a tuft of bright white hair. The two who perished were among only 1,800 of the critically-endangered monkeys living in captivity. Some 6,000 of the tiny creatures still live in the wild in a small patch of northwest Columbia, according to the National Primate Research Center.

The incident happened at the Alexandria Zoological Park in central Louisiana. Officials for the city of Alexandria, which owns the zoo, said that the deaths were a result of human error. The zoo caretaker on duty that night claims he “overlooked” the monkeys and accidentally left them out in the cold.

After the monkeys were discovered the next morning, the caretaker was placed on administrative leave and later resigned.

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PETA has insisted that the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) investigate the deaths to determine whether they could have been prevented. City officials strongly believe that this tragedy was merely an accident and doesn’t indicate a problem with the zoo’s operating procedures or policies.

PETA has long been opposed to zoos and similar attractions that house animals. In this case, PETA Foundation attorney Delcianna Winders argues that the tamarins “lived a sad life of deprivation in captivity, and their deaths were totally preventable.”

Via Reuters

Images via Wikimedia and mirsasha via Creative Commons.