Someone slipped into the Santa Ana Zoo in Southern California early Saturday and let 10 monkeys loose at the 20-acre wildlife park — then made off with Isaac, a ring-tailed lemur, reported KABC.
The monkeys, which hadn’t strayed far, were quickly rounded up, zoo director Ethan Fisher told KCBS. “They were just sort of going for a stroll,” Fisher said.
Zoo officials were more concerned about Isaac, who at 32 years old is the second-oldest ring-tailed lemur in North America, reported KCBS.
“First we were very startled, and we were just concerned for the lemur,” Fisher said, according to KTLA. “We wanted to make sure that it was OK.”
Lemurs, which are found in the wild only on Madagascar, are an endangered species, making Isaac’s theft a federal crime, reported KTLA.
But as police began to organize a search, someone dropped Isaac off in a plastic crate at the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview hotel, reported The Orange County Register.
The crate, marked “SA Zoo,” contained a handwritten note that read: “This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo it was taken last night please bring it to police,” reported KTLA.
A hotel security video shows someone in a hoodie dropping off the box before running away, according to KCBS.
Police notified zoo personnel, who retrieved Isaac unharmed and returned him to his habitat, where he’s doing well, the station reported.
Santa Ana police continue to investigate the theft, which caused about $1,000 in damage to the city zoo, Cpl. Anthony Bertagna told The Orange County Register.
“Is this a prank, or somebody had a change of heart?” Bertagna asked, according to the publication. “Those are things we are looking at.”
The Santa Ana Zoo opened in 1952 after Joseph Prentice donated land for the wildlife park with the requirement the zoo keep at least 50 monkeys at all times, according to the zoo’s website. The zoo contains more than 80 species of animals.