It’s been just over a week since he died, but the senselessness and ignorance continue to linger — and hopefully not for long.

On Monday, June 3, one of the popular attractions at Bays Mountain Park & Planetarium in Kingsport unexpectedly died. Otto, an otter who had tremendous magnetic charm that visitors and staff alike cooed over, ate something more lethal than anything in his natural habitat: human food. Someone threw human food into Otto’s enclosure and ultimately killed him. Grapes were found inside his habitat and are a possible culprit, though final results are pending a necropsy.

Grapes. Someone threw grapes into an animal’s enclosure at a nature preserve and ended up killing the animal. The death of this beloved creature shook staff who cared for him and guests who, in a different way, also cared for him. (And to think he just turned two years old in January.)

That outpouring of grief and disappointment still sits on the preserve’s Facebook post announcing Otto’s untimely exit , which, to date, has more than 1,000 reactions, 200 comments and 300 shares.

Most comments came in the form of condolences. Some provided endearing personal pictures of the animal, looking so comfortable in front of the camera and wading along as if he belonged exactly there. Some comments even came from individuals who have never visited the zoo but knew either of his fame or someone who enjoyed his personality or playfulness.

Aside from the constant theme of sadness and likewise sad emojis, another stream infused many of those comments, a sentiment which forces us to reiterate it in this space: anger.

Signs are clearly posted in any type of zoo, preserve, or enclosure holding animals: Don’t feed the animals. Whatever the purpose was that spurred the slinging of grapes over the fence to Otto — well-intentioned, curious or maybe too far from a trash can — everyone is suffering because of it. And quite simply, the person or group who thought it was a fine idea needs to feel a surplus of guilt or shame.

Don’t feed the animals.

Signs like this are up for a reason. Teach your kids and grandkids the importance of nature’s integrity. Our diets, our habits and our abilities are just that: ours. That self-awarded feeling of omniscience via being human, well, doesn’t translate to all topics, and because someone thought it did, we killed an otter we also helped raise after his parents died in a flood.

Don’t feed the animals.

We’d like to assume a child threw the grapes; at least we might be able to explain using a misunderstanding or inexperience with norms or rules (still disappointing but not as much as it could be). Even so, an adult must still be around to guide and supervise.

So an adult failed to enforce the rules of the preserve and, in doing so, failed to establish a necessary respect for nonhuman animals, failed the rest of us for not meeting societal expectations of responsibility, and, in particular, failed the staff and other visitors of the preserve.

We won’t even comment on if an adult had been the source of the grapes-tossing.

Don’t feed the animals.

Something — and for some, someone — actually died because of negligence, laziness or stupidity. Rules aren’t meant to be broken, and they don’t apply to some persons and not others. Rules come from experts, just like the “don’t feed the animals” signs come from experienced trainers and caretakers of preserve residents.

As often happens, though, it takes shock for people to notice and something to change.

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