Why on earth would someone kidnap a lemur from a zoo?

<span>Photograph: Esteban Félix/AP</span>
Photograph: Esteban Félix/AP

Evergreen question, but what is wrong with all of you?

Today I am asking it after learning about a lemur kidnapping that allegedly took place late last year. Yes, a lemur kidnapping.

Related: Elderly lemur missing from San Francisco zoo found at a playground

Back in October, a 31-year-old man out in California swiped a ring-tailed lemur – a rare, endangered species native to Madagascar – out of the San Francisco zoo. The primate, named Maki, was found “hungry, dehydrated, and agitated”, shortly after on a playground in Daly City, ABC News reports.

On Monday, the alleged lemur-napper was arraigned in a virtual US district court hearing on charged of violating the Endangered Species Act. He faces up to $50,000 in fines and possibly a year in prison if found guilty.

It’s unclear why this man would kidnap an endangered lemur. I mean that in the broadest, most literal sense – as in, why would anyone do this? – but also in the sense that his motives are not elucidated in any of the reporting I’ve read on the event.

Perhaps he wanted to sell the ring-tailed lemur on the black market; that’s why in 2018 a 25-year-old in north-west England – who has since been sentenced to nearly three years in prison for burglary and theft – scooped up two Humboldt penguins, 12 roseate spoonbills and three macaws.

He sold the penguins for over $12,000, pawned off each of the spoonbills for almost $5,000 each (at least the four that didn’t die in his care), and cashed in on the macaws at about $700 per bird.

Similar motives could be attributed to the person who stole a red-footed tortoise out of the Buffalo Zoo in upstate New York in 2020, as those reptiles are common pets and fetch anywhere from $150-300 each, as well as the person who robbed California’s Fresno Chaffee Zoo of one of its lesser sulphur-crested cockatoos last November.

On a more grim note, it’s possible that the alleged lemur-napper simply wanted to sell parts of his allegedly lemur-napped lemur on the black market, similar to how poachers broke into France’s Château de Thoiry zoo in 2017, shot and killed a four-year-old southern white rhinoceros named Vince, and sawed off one of his horns. Though selling rhino horns is illegal under French and international law, people still do it, netting as much as $54,000 per gram on the black market.

Then again, maybe the man had kept a clandestine lemur habit perfectly maintained in his home and wanted to introduce Maki to it, kind of like the people who stole Miss Helen, a 16in-long horn shark, from her open-top enclosure at the San Antonio Aquarium who police say had mocked up an aquarium-level habitat for all kinds of dubiously possessed marine life in his home.

Whatever his reason … What the hell? Don’t steal animals from the zoo.

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