An Illinois family made an unusual home discovery when they found an endangered ring-tailed lemur inside their garage.
The surprising discovery began Wednesday night when a family in Bloomington, Illinois, more than 50 miles northeast of Springfield, heard noises coming from their garage, according to the Miller Park Zoo. When the family investigated the noise the next day, they discovered a ring-tailed lemur.
The ring-tailed lemur is listed as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species as its population is declining due to limited resources, agriculture and climate change.
Lemurs are a social species, according to the zoo, and possess large canine teeth that “can cause significant injury.” They are native to the southern part of the African island of Madagascar, according to the IUCN, and became popular after the animated “Madagascar” movies.
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Healing “King Julien”
After the family found the lemurs, they notified the Illinois Conservation Police, who then reached out to the zoo for help.
When officials got to the home, the family said they fed the animal some fruit while they watched it. The daughter of the family also called the lemurs “King Julien”, in reference to the “Madagascar” films.
The zoo said officials obtained permission from the family to enter the garage and collected the animal “quietly and safely” and placed it in a cage.
The animal was transported to the Miller Park Zoo, where it is “safely housed and under expert care,” according to the zoo. Miller Park Zoo director Jay Pratt told USA TODAY that the lemurs were eating food as they relaxed around the care team.
“He seems to be in fairly good health,” Pratt said. “He’s in a new environment, in the zoo’s quarantine facility, but he’s responding well to the keepers.”
How did the ring-tailed lemur get to Illinois?
Authorities aren’t sure how the lemurs got into the garage or the city, as Illinois county police and local authorities are investigating ownership and clearance of the lemurs. In the meantime, the animal will remain in the zoo.
“Once the state has verified what will happen with the lemurs, the zoo will work with authorities to determine the appropriate next steps,” Miller Park Zoo said.
USA TODAY has reached out to the Illinois Conservation Police for additional information.
The zoo says lemurs are not pets and should not be kept as pets, adding that they can carry animal pathogens that can be transmitted directly to humans.
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“Actually living his Claymore life.”
Pratt said it is illegal to own an exotic animal in Illinois. The lemurs are also protected under the federal Endangered Species Act, as the zoo says they must be cared for by qualified zoological organizations.
Pratt believes the animal did not travel far home, and since no one contacted the authorities about the loss of the lemur, it was likely kept as a pet illegally.
“Illegal animal trafficking severely impacts conservation,” Pratt said. “When you think about what this little guy’s life should have been like — and it was instead — I appreciate that we have the opportunity to kind of share this with people and maybe make someone think twice about trying to illegally buy a pet lemur or something like that.” “.
If it is determined that the animal is illegally owned, Pratt said, the lemurs may be moved to a zoo or sanctuary where they can socialize with other ring-tailed lemurs.
“He may have been prematurely withdrawn from his mother, and it was too early for him to be sold as a pet, so he will have some kind of developmental delays and problems,” he said. “Even though he seems like he’s really quick, he’s really smart, he’s willing to learn. I think with the right, professionally managed circumstances, he has a good chance of living his life as a Claymore, depending on how it goes.”
Anyone with information on the lemurs’ origins should contact the Illinois Conservation Police at 1-8772DNRLAW (236-7529).
Follow Jordan Mendoza on Twitter: @jordan_mendoza5.