It seemed unlikely that Maki, a 21-year-old arthritic lemur, could have gotten very far on his own.
So when officials at the San Francisco Zoo realized that the animal was missing from his enclosure on Wednesday, they immediately suspected foul play. They’d also found evidence of forced entry at the enclosure.
The search was on for Maki and his suspected kidnapper. San Francisco Police opened a case, and officers and zookeepers called on the public to help them find the ring-tailed lemur – a member of an endangered species whose median life expectancy is around 16 years.
Zoo officials even offered a $2,100 reward for information leading to Maki’s safe retrieval.
“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, the zoo’s executive vice president of animal behavior and wellness, told ABC 7.
Fortunately, the search ended quickly. On Thursday, 5-year-old James Trinh was leaving preschool when he spotted Maki in the parking by his school’s playground. Trinh attends the Hope Lutheran Day School in Daly City, just 5 miles from the zoo.
“There’s a lemur! There’s a lemur!” Trinh cried.
School director Cynthia Huang was skeptical at first, but soon realized Trinh was correct. Maki bounded from the parking lot to a miniature playhouse on the playground, where he hid as the school alerted the police. Officers from the Daly City Police Department contained Maki until zoo caretakers arrived on the scene.
—Daly City Police (@DalyCityPD) October 16, 2020
Just like humans who’ve traveled far from home in 2020, Maki will spend the next few days “socially distancing from his primate family,” San Francisco Zoo director Tanya Peterson told the Associated Press. Caretakers found him hungry, dehydrated and agitated, she added. But otherwise, he appeared to be in good health, according to the SFPD.
The zoo is giving the $2,100 reward to the Hope Lutheran Church, which hosts Trinh’s preschool. The boy and his family are receiving a free lifetime zoo membership, according to Peterson.
Trinh, Huang, and others who helped find Maki “literally saved a life,” Peterson added.
On Thursday, police in San Rafael, California, announced that they’d narrowed in on a suspect in the kidnapping. After arresting 30-year-old Cory McGilloway on an unrelated charge of stealing a truck, officers found photos of Maki on McGilloway’s phone, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
The San Rafael Police alerted the SFPD, who have charged McGilloway with “grand theft of an animal,” along with burglary, looting, and vandalism.