The El Paso Zoo visitor has been identified, arrested, and even fired from her job.

By Mike Pomranz
May 28, 2021
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Bowl of Flamin' Hot Cheetos
Credit: Carmen K. Sisson / Cloudybright / Alamy Stock Photo

I'm just a humble food and beverage writer: I'm not here to be a buzzkill and tell you not to live your dreams. But if your dream is to jump into a monkey exhibit at the zoo so you can feed them Flamin' Hot Cheetos, then… yeah… maybe don't do that. Or at least know that there will be consequences as a Texas woman can now attest to.

Over the weekend, a woman at the El Paso Zoo was filmed feeding spider monkeys what were said to be Flamin' Hot Cheetos after hopping over a fence to enter their enclosure. In the video, posted to Instagram, she can be seen sitting near a waterfall, offering food to two of the monkeys. She then walks back though the knee-high water, smiling, with onlookers chuckling, before she is helped back over the fence.

According to El Paso's KVIA, the woman was later identified as Luz Elizabeth Rae, 26, who was arrested yesterday morning and charged with Criminal Trespass.

After the incident, employees at the zoo were open about their displeasure and said they had planned to press charges. "It's extremely dangerous. These are primates we're talking about here, so they can do some substantial damage to you. They have large canines; they're stronger than they look. They may be small monkeys, but they are extremely strong. They can take you to the ground if they wanted to," Mason Kleist, one of the zookeepers, was quoted as saying. "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."

Zoo director Joe Montisano also said the incident will force them—and other zoos—to rethink these kinds of exhibits moving forward. "It's been here—I don't know—30 years. But now they're going to probably review," he told KVIA. "There are standards and maybe they're going to have to make some changes to that so it could have a large ripple effect, not only here, not only in Texas, but all over the country, quite frankly, because of one person's ignorant action."

Meanwhile, legal troubles are just part of Rae's ramifications. Though not mentioned by name, the Lovett Law Firm told the El Paso Times one of their employees, a litigation assistant, was seen in the video, and she had been fired. "We learned this morning that that individual who was trespassing in the spider monkey exhibit at the zoo was an employee, and she was terminated immediately," Rob Lovett told the paper. "The firm has always been a strong supporter of animals and advocacy. We absolutely do not condone this irresponsible and reckless behavior. We support the El Paso Zoo and our thoughts go out to the spider monkeys, Libby and Sunday, and we hope they recover from this traumatic experience."

Speaking of which, the El Paso Zoo said that the monkeys are kept on a special diet, so being fed something like Flamin' Hot Cheetos could cause stomach or bowel issues. Here's wishing them the best.