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09.07.2019 Africa

US man pleads guilty to stealing rare lemur from zoo

By AFP
After his ordeal Isaac, 32, was eventually returned unharmed to the Santa Ana Zoo.  By Handout (US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE/AFP)
JUL 9, 2019 AFRICA
After his ordeal Isaac, 32, was eventually returned unharmed to the Santa Ana Zoo. By Handout (US DEPARTMENT OF JUSTICE/AFP)

A California man pleaded guilty on Monday to sneaking into a zoo after hours and stealing the oldest-living ring-tailed lemur in North American captivity to keep the rare animal as a pet.

Aquinas Kasbar, 19, admitted before US District Judge Andrew Guilford to using bolt cutters on July 27 of last year to cut a hole in the enclosures for lemurs and capuchin monkeys at the Santa Ana Zoo in order to steal 32-year-old Isaac.

According to court documents, Kasbar abandoned the animal in a plastic drawer with no ventilation the next day in front of a hotel in Newport Beach, south of Los Angeles.

He left a note saying that the lemur -- which is on the list of the 25 most endangered primates and whose life span typically is 20 to 25 years -- belonged to the zoo and should be taken to police.

Isaac was eventually returned unharmed to the zoo.

Kasbar faces one year in prison and a $100,000 fine at his sentencing on October 28.

He was identified as the culprit after Newport Beach police investigating a string of home burglaries, for which he has been charged, tied him to the theft.

According to Scientific American, only between 2,000 and 2,400 ring-tailed lemurs (Lemur catta) remain in their native Madagascar, a 95-percent decrease since the year 2000.

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