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Zoo Takes in Escaped Exotic Animals, Including Endangered Lemurs

Some 30 exotic animals were beng kept in filthy conditions in a Warren garage. Police want to know where the man harboring the animals acquired them.

Two ring-tailed lemurs, like this one, were confiscated from a Warren garage and taken to the Detroit Zoo for care. (Photo: wikipedia commons)
Two ring-tailed lemurs, like this one, were confiscated from a Warren garage and taken to the Detroit Zoo for care. (Photo: wikipedia commons)

The Detroit Zoo is sheltering several species of exotic animals, including endangered African lemurs, South American coatis and  several others recovered from a garage at a Warren house Thursday.

Police were called to the residence after a neighbor reported what he thought was an aardvark in the front lawn, the Detroit Free Press said.

A 37-year-old man, whose name has not been released, was charged with harboring exotic animals, harboring dangerous animals, and animal neglect and cruelty, Warren Deputy Police Commissioner Louis Galasso said.

Cages found in the garage in the 5200 block of Frazho were filthy and stacked one on top of the other, and the animals lacked food and water, though they did not appear to be malnourished.

“The conditions these animals were being kept in were deplorable,” Elizabeth Arbaugh, the zoo’s curator of mammals, said in a news release posted on the zoo’s web site.

Given the conditions they were living in, they seemed to be in relatively good health, Arbaugh said, but “there could be some possible health issues; we'll know more after a complete evaluation."

Besides the pair each of ring-tailed lemurs and white-nosed coatis, the approximately 30 recovered animals also included three fennec foxes, several rabbits, a screech owl, pigeons, roosters and several small birds.

Police said they hadn’t received any complaints about animals at the property before some of them escaped on Wednesday.

Both the police and the zoo want to know where the man got the animals.

“Privately owned exotic animals kept as ‘pets’ often end up in compromised conditions and in need of rescue,” Ron Kagan, the zoo’s executive director and CEO, said in the news release. “We previously worked with the Michigan Humane Society and other organizations to pass legislation barring the ownership of exotic animals in Michigan.”

At least one of the species is classified as endangered.

Ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) are on the ICUN/World Conservation Union’s endangered species Red List. They’re among the animals illegally brought to the United States in the pet trade, one of several factors that threaten their extinction.

Indigenous to the dry forests and bush of southern and southwestern Madagascar.

Downgrading lemurs from vulnerable to endangered, conservationists said the population density is very low and restricted to isolated fragments. The population may have declined 50 percent over three generations (36 years).

One of the primary factors in their decline was “exploitation through unsustainable levels of hunting.”

The white-nosed coati (Nasua narica),whose range includes the southwest United States and parts Central America and South America, isn’t endangered, but World Conservation Union officials say it is locally threatened because of habitat destruction.

The zoo said some of the animals will remain under quarantine and will receive species-appropriate health care and diets. When they are certified as healthy, some wil be transferred to the Michigan Humane Society. The permanent placement of some of the animals remains in question, the zoo said.

The zoo is frequently asked to help with the rescue of exotic animals from private owners, pseudo-sanctuaries, roadside zoos and circuses, according to the news release.

Past rescues include more than 1,000 exotic animals confiscated from an animal wholesaler in Texas, a polar bear from a tropical circus and lions kept in a junkyard in Kansas.


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