SANTA ANA, CA — A ring-tailed lemur was recovered from a Newport Beach hotel after it and 10 other primates were freed from their enclosures at the Santa Ana Zoo, officials said Tuesday.
The endangered species’ escapade unfolded over the weekend, after officers were called to the zoo on Chestnut Avenue around 7:50 a.m. Saturday, Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna said.
The wildlife park’s staff told authorities that an unknown number of intruders broke into the 20-acre zoo grounds by cutting through fencing around its perimeter.
The person or people then proceeded to cut open an enclosure that houses 10 monkeys, freeing them onto zoo property. A photo released by police shows a 16-inch hole cut into the cage.
While staff was able to capture the other primates, a 32-year-old lemur named Isaac from a neighboring enclosure was apparently stolen.
“First, we were very startled, and we were just concerned for the lemur,” said Zoo Director Ethan Fisher. “We wanted to make sure that it was OK.”
But later that day, police in Newport Beach located the animal after it was left outside a Marriott hotel there. It was in a crate marked “SA Zoo,” according to Bertagna.
he primate was found with a handwritten note reading: “This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo it was taken last night please bring it to police”
Zoo staff went to the hotel and took custody of the lemur, who was unharmed.
Officials estimate the vandalism caused more than $1,000 in damage to the zoo. The stolen lemur is valued at $3,000, police said.
He is one of two lemurs that lived at the zoo as of September 2017. Both of its lemurs, a type of primate found in the wild only on the island of Madagascar, are endangered species.
All the park’s monkeys are now safe and accounted for, Bertagna said.
And it’s a good thing — the zoo’s founder, Joseph Prentice, said in order for it to exist, there must be at least 50 monkeys on the grounds at all times, according to its website.
Officials did not release any information on the possible suspect or suspects involved, and a motive was still unknown.
Taking an endangered species is a federal crime.