Springfield, Missouri, police officers recently found themselves in a bizarre scene as they chased a runaway lemur through a city park on September 12, eventually using a large towel to capture the exotic pet.
The officers’ body cameras captured their attempts to apprehend the speedy primate.
“We see the tail,” one officer chuckled as he tried to close in on the elusive primate.
But the lemur wasn’t giving up easily, dashing through the park and weaving around trees. Despite the officers’ efforts, including an attempt to toss a towel over it like a net, it continued to evade capture.
However, persistence paid off as another officer managed to grab the lemur and safely wrap it in a towel. The animal’s owners had reported it missing, leading to its adventure in the park.
“Officer Franchi and Davis spotted the little fella and, after a short foot pursuit, got it snuggled up in towel,” the department wrote on Facebook.
Unfortunately for the owners, city ordinances in Springfield prohibit keeping wild animals as pets. As a result, the lemur has been entrusted to a local wildlife rescue agency, where it will receive proper care and attention.
The incident has since raised questions about the regulations surrounding exotic pet ownership in Missouri, which boasts relatively lenient regulations concerning the ownership of exotic animals, including lemurs. State law prohibits the possession of such animals unless the owner registers them with the local law enforcement agency. An attempt to implement stricter regulations and require permits for the ownership of non-human primates in 2011 failed to pass the state legislature. However, local governments have the authority to establish stricter rules. In Springfield, owning any exotic animal, including smaller ones like lemurs and spider monkeys, is illegal due to municipal ordinances. The primary reason cited is the potential transmission of zoonotic diseases from these animals to humans and other animals.
Springfield animal control rarely encounters exotic pets within city limits, but when they do, they work with zoos and wildlife sanctuaries to find suitable homes for the animals. In this particular case, the lemur’s owner cooperated and surrendered the animal. Outside city limits, different rules apply. In Macon, Missouri, a variety of exotic animals, from lemurs to zebras, are bought and sold at auctions. These auctions require sellers to have licenses through the U.S. Department of Agriculture.
Despite the relative ease of obtaining exotic animals in some areas, experts and organizations discourage keeping lemurs and other wild animals as pets. The Duke Lemur Center at Duke University advises against lemur ownership due to the animals’ potential for aggression and the need for social interactions with their own species.
The Association of Zoos & Aquariums has launched the “Not A Pet” campaign to reduce the demand for wild and exotic animals as pets. It highlights the dangers of exotic pet ownership, which can contribute to the endangerment of already vulnerable species.