RICHMOND, Va. — Maymont, a picturesque park in Richmond, is known for its gorgeous gardens, stately mansion, and popular animal farm petting zoo.
But there’s a problem that comes along with that popularity.
On any given day, you’ll find kids of all ages, with their tiny hands full of food pellets, feeding the awaiting animals.
And that became an unhealthy habit for Percy the Donkey.
“The life of a donkey is not that demanding,” Maymont senior manager of zoology Joel Neel said. “Unfortunately that leaves a lot of time for eating.”
Neel said around 10 years ago, brought on by a seemingly never-ending supply of food from visitors and lack of membership to a gym, the 25-year-old Sicilian donkey found himself a bit overweight.
“It’s not healthy for humans and it’s not healthy for animals,” Neel said. “He does not work out, unfortunately.”
To help Percy, Maymont posted a sign on the gate where he lives at the farm.
“This is Percy. Please do not feed him. He’s on a strict diet. You may pet him if he is close by, but please help us keep him healthy by saving your animal feed for the other farm animals.”
While signs to help Percy have been up for a while, this one recently made the rounds on social media thanks to Richmond artist and meme marker Doug “RVA Coffee Stain” Orleski.
So how does Percy feel about his business being blasted out for all to see?
“I don’t know that it hurts his feelings but he’s probably a little bitter,” Neel said with a laugh. “He’s a crotchety old man sometimes.”
Bitter or not, the sign seems to be working.
Percy now weighs about 350 pounds and has lost about 100 pounds from his plumpest.
“I can’t imagine him a hundred pounds heavier. Dang, Percy,” Maymont visitor Crystal Evelyn said.
Neel said Percy has come a long way and is in much better shape than a decade ago.
He said he hoped the beloved donkey of Maymont will be happy and healthy for years to come.
“We don’t necessarily advertise the struggle and the amount of work that we really have to put in to take care of these animals,” Neel said. “We want to have Percy with us for as long as possible and particularly now he’s about to turn 25 years old so we got to take care of him to make sure he’s staying healthy. Maybe get him a Peleton.”
While we want to acknowledge Percy’s hard work, his weight loss journey is not quite complete.
Maymont said Percy remains about 15 pounds from his ideal weight.
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