San Francisco, California (NBC) (10/15/20)— A ring-tailed lemur named Maki was stolen from the San Francisco Zoo & Gardens overnight, police said Wednesday.
“We understand that lemurs are adorable animals, but Maki is a highly endangered animal that requires special care. We are asking the public for help in his return,” Dr. Jason Watters, zoo executive vice president of animal behavior and wellness, said in a statement.
Ring-tailed lemurs, found natively in Madagascar, are considered an endangered species.
Officers “discovered forced entry to the animal enclosure where the lemur was housed,” police said in a statement.
Maki, 21 years old, was found missing from the Lipman Family Lemur Forest, which is the largest outdoor habitat for lemurs in the United States. That habitat has seven types of lemurs, but no other animals were reported missing.
“As one of our oldest lemurs, Maki requires a specialized diet. Of the 19 lemurs here, at 21.5 years, he has exceeded median life expectancy of 16.7 years, but is also one of the slowest, and we believe, likely, the easiest to catch,” Watters said.
This isn’t the first time someone has stolen a ring-tailed lemur from a California zoo.
In 2018, Aquinas Kasbar of Newport Beach broke into the Santa Ana Zoo after it had closed for the night and used bolt cutters to steal a ring-tailed lemur named Isaac.
Isaac, which was 32 years old and the oldest ring-tailed lemur in captivity in North America — was left outside a Newport Beach hotel the next day in a plastic container with a note saying the animal belonged to the zoo.
Isaac was unharmed and returned to the zoo.
Kasbar “had broken into the zoo with the intention of taking a monkey for a pet, but he couldn’t get any of the monkeys to go with him,” the FBI has said.
Kasbar a few months later was arrested on an unrelated charge and bragged to a bail agent that he had stolen a lemur from the zoo and showed the bail agent a video on his phone of him with the animal, according to the FBI.
Kasbar pleaded guilty in 2019 to a federal misdemeanor of unlawfully taking an endangered species. He was sentenced to 90 days in prison, as well as $8,486 in restitution to the zoo.
He also was accused of a string of residential burglaries in the Newport Beach area and pleaded guilty in that state case.
The International Union for Conservation of Nature says that the primary threats to ring-tailed lemurs in Madagascar are habitat loss and hunting, but also the “illegal in-country pet trade.”
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