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Lemur stolen from Santa Ana Zoo found at Newport Beach hotel, with handwritten note

Lemur stolen from Santa Ana Zoo found at Newport Beach hotel, with handwritten note
A lemur was stolen from the Santa Ana Zoo and later found at the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview hotel, police said. (KTLA)

Hotel employees are known to welcome a variety of weary travelers, but an unusual guest who appeared outside the front door of the Newport Beach Marriott Bayview early Saturday caught the staff by surprise.

A 32-year-old ring-tailed lemur named Isaac was in a crate marked “SA Zoo.” Inside the crate was a handwritten note that read: “This belongs to the Santa Ana Zoo. It was taken last night. Please bring it to police.”

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Hotel staff called Newport Beach police shortly after 2 a.m. to report the finding. Officers retrieved Isaac and took him to the one of the Police Department’s animal enclosures, where he could move around, said police spokeswoman Jennifer Manzella.

Manzella said Isaac, who was raised in captivity, was docile around officers.

A few hours later, Santa Ana Zoo staff discovered that an unknown number of intruders had entered the zoo’s 20-acre grounds overnight and cut through two enclosures — one that houses lemurs, including Isaac, and another that houses capuchin monkeys, said zoo manager Ethan Fisher.

Staff captured the primates that had left their enclosure and were roaming the property. But Isaac was missing. Employees called police shortly before 8 a.m.

“First we were very startled and we were just concerned for the lemur,” Fisher said. “We wanted to make sure that it was OK.”

About 30 minutes later, Newport Beach authorities called to report they had him.

Isaac is now back at the zoo and is his usual “mellow” self, Fisher said.

Isaac, the oldest of six lemurs at the Santa Ana Zoo, has lived there since 2000. He’s the second-oldest lemur in North America, Fisher said.

Lemurs are found in the wild only on the island nation of Madagascar and are an endangered species. Taking an endangered species is a federal crime, authorities said.

Fisher said zoo staff hadn’t been able to determine why someone would take the lemur.

“People do all sorts of strange things,” he said. “Some people think it might have been a prank, others think maybe someone was trying to sell him. There are so many theories, but I can’t begin to guess.”

It’s also a mystery for authorities, who as of Wednesday had no suspects, said Santa Ana Police Cpl. Anthony Bertagna.

Anyone with information is asked to call Orange County Crime Stoppers at 855-TIP-OCCS (847-6227).

Fry writes for Times Community News.

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