Sacramento Zoo Gives Temporary Shelter To Ring-Tailed Lemur, Most Likely Part Of Illegal Pet Trade

A male ring-tailed lemur, allegedly kept as a pet illegally, was found in a Turlock backyard. It has currently found a temporary home at the Sacramento Zoo. Zookeepers think the primate was kept as a pet illegally. They say he doesn’t appear to know how to socialize with other lemurs.

The zoo doesn’t have any ring-tailed lemurs though it does have black and white ruffed lemurs and mongoose lemurs, reports The Guardian. For the time being, their solitary striped-tailed cousin is on display near them.

Sacramento Zoo spokeswoman Tonja Candelaria says the endangered primate’s stay at the zoo is temporary. She says,

“We don’t have any ring-tailed lemurs at the Sacramento Zoo. He is a special circumstance because he is from the illegal pet trade. He hasn’t necessarily learned all the lemur behaviors he would need to and that he would have traditionally growing up. When we first brought him into the exhibit where he is currently housed he seemed unfamiliar with the scents of the other lemurs around him. He also exhibits behaviors that we wouldn’t typically see, like grooming his tail in an excessive amount. He needs to go a home where they understand those needs and could help transition him into a lemur troop.”

Sacramento zookeepers won’t introduce him to other lemurs. They’re leaving that up to the staff at his permanent home.

Lemurs, native to Madagascar, live in matriarchal groups. Since this guy is a young male, aged around two years according to the estimate of the zookeepers, his transition into a troop will be slow. The zoo is known to have handled illegal pet trade cases in the past. Candelaria says,

“Unfortunately, we do receive notices from Fish and Wildlife letting us know that animals have been found as part of the illegal pet trade, more often than we would want to see. It’s not uncommon to receive those calls once, twice a year. We do happen to have some animals in our collection that started out that way, for example, we have a grey fox that was handed over to Fish and Wildlife. He was imprinted upon people. So he found his way here where we could help him still be a fox but also manage the imprint needs that he has.”

Chris Stoots, an information officer with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife, says that in recent years the department has been able to find more restricted animals thanks to social media. He says, “We have officers and personnel that are constantly monitoring social media for posts related to people possessing these things. Wild animals do behave wildly and you could be harmed or injured trying to interfere.”

The zoo was contacted in December by a Turlock resident who said that the ring-tailed lemur was in his Stanislaus County backyard, reports the Sacramento Bee.

Leslie Field, a supervisor of mammals, wrote this week on the zoo’s blog,

“In December 2015, the Sacramento Zoo was contacted by a resident of Turlock, California about a strange animal he found in his backyard. He had done research on the Internet and felt confident that the animal in question was a Ring-tailed Lemur, an endangered primate species. California Department of Fish and Wildlife became involved with the goal of capturing the animal and contacted us for our assistance with providing temporarily housing and care. Since being with the Zoo, the lemur has passed his quarantine period, had a full veterinary examination, received necessary vaccinations, and a clean bill of health. From his behavior, however, it is clear that he has not lived with other lemurs and that he is a product of the illegal pet trade.”

It is legal to own restricted species with proper permitting. According to the Sacramento Zoo, there are about 15,000 privately owned non-human primates in the United States alone. The DFW says there’s no one living in the Turlock area with the necessary permits to own a lemur and no one has reported missing one.

[Photo by Kreth/ullstein bild via Getty Images]