Zoo in Tennessee blames squeezable food pouch for beloved antelope's death

LIMESTONE, Tenn. (AP) — An antelope choked on a squeezable food pouch and died over the weekend at a northeastern Tennessee zoo, officials said.

Lief, a 7-year-old male sitatunga, died Saturday at Brights Zoo, the family-owned zoo in rural Limestone said in a social media post mourning the loss of the "beloved animal" due to choking. The post included an image of fruit sauce pouches.

The sitatunga is a swamp-dwelling antelope native to Africa with a lifespan of around 22 years in human care, according to the Smithsonian’s National Zoo & Conservation Biology Institute. Sitatunga populations are considered abundant in the wild and they have a conservation status of “least concern,” but their habitat is at risk as human development continues.

“He still had a lot of life to live,” Brights Zoo said, posting a photo of Lief.

Pouch packaging is dangerous to the animals, and pouches aren't allowed at the zoo, the zoo said.

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