A woman fired over a viral video showing her climb over a fence at an El Paso, Texas, zoo in order to feed Flamin’ Hot Cheetos to spider monkeys says she did nothing wrong and will not apologize to the zoo.
The May, 2021, incident went viral on social media, but Luz “Lucy” Rae was excoriated as “stupid” for her actions that put her and the monkeys at risk.
She was also fired from her job at a law firm.
Zookeeper Mason Kleist vehemently criticized Rae at the time. Kleist said the monkeys could have harmed her significantly. He also said her climbing into the enclosure likely destroyed the trust that zookeepers had built up with the animals.
“It takes years to build trust with these animals and for someone to come in there for five minutes for a video on Instagram or whatever just ruins years of work,” Kleist told KVIA-TV. “It’s going to take a long time to get them back to where they were and training.”
On Monday, Rae defended her actions.
“I was shocked that someone had recorded it and shocked that it went viral,” Rae told KVIA.
Rae was arrested for criminal trespass by the El Paso police. She says she did nothing wrong, and she does not plan on apologizing to the zoo.
“Well, I don’t think I did anything wrong,” Rae said. “I didn’t do anything wrong. I did not hurt anyone.”
Rae says there was no sign specifically telling people to stay out of the animal enclosures, while the zoo says there is a sign telling visitors not to feed the animals.
Rae’s lawyer also defended her against criticism that the Flamin’ Hot Cheeto might have hurt the monkeys by pointing out that there’s video on the internet showing other monkeys eating human food and drinking beer.
She has since been able to obtain a new job at another law firm.
Rae said she had learned only one lesson from the incident and the blowback:
“I learned just keep the Cheetos to myself,” Rae said. “I can’t share.”
Here’s a local news video about the incident: