A Sichuan snub-nosed monkey called Quanquan died in Beijing Zoo before the May Day holiday, zoo officials admitted Wednesday.
The monkey's death is alleged to have been caused by tourists feeding it inappropriate food.
"I can say that a Sichuan golden monkey did die accidentally earlier, and we are in the middle of investigating the cause," said Ye Mingxia, the zoo's publicity officer.
The Sichuan snub-nosed monkey is one of three species of Chinese snub-nosed monkeys, all endangered and national first-class protected animals, according to the website of the State Forestry Administration. Beijing Zoo was the first to house all three species from 2006.
Ye refused to speculate on the cause of death, however, a whistle blower alleged via a microblog yesterday morning that tourists were responsible. The Web user was the first to reveal the monkey's death, and cursed the tourists, claiming the female monkey's mate was also sick. The post was later deleted.
Last night, the zoo told the Global Times that they have had problems with tourists putting food into Quanquan's cage for a long time, even breaking the safety glass, which the zoo was constantly repairing. Visitors also ignore signs that prohibit feeding animals.
The zoo said that Quanquan had difficulty breathing and serious abdominal distension on Sunday afternoon and died after emergency measures failed. The zoo has retained the feed samples to analyze the cause of death. Quanquan's mate is on the mend, the zoo said.
The zoo at first refused to answer any monkey-related questions, saying that microblogs are unreliable.
However, Yang Yi, a Beijing Zoo keeper, criticized visitors on his microblog the night Quanquan died.
"It's not right for parents to let their kids feed the animals. They're not your pets!" Yang posted.
Xie Haisheng, a vet from Beijing Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Center said that animals in captivity need a regulated diet to avoid illness.
"Animals like monkeys and bears can suffer intestinal problems if visitors try to feed them," said Xie.
"Visitors enjoying feeding animals everything and litter at the zoo, and sad cases happen," said Xie.
An ostrich died after ingesting a plastic bag in Zhongshan Park, Guangdong Province on April 21, according to a Shantou Daily report yesterday, while a macaque monkey died from being fed by visitors in Wenzhou Zoo, Zhejiang Province last May Day holiday, reported the Chinanews website in May 2011.