The great escape

'The trouble comes when a lemur is unhappy enough to climb up a high tree to jump over the small fence around the exhibit'.

For the second time in the six-year existence of the lemur exhibit at the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo, an animal escaped last month. The wayward lemur was finally returned on May 24, and zoo officials have proposed that the male decided to escape because he felt like a social outsider among the other lemurs in the exhibition. Lemurs, primates from Madagascar thought to be the evolutionary predecessors to monkeys and apes, are known to be extremely sociable animals, exhibiting behaviors and concerns that are similar to those of humans. Lemur social life is matriarchal, and it has been speculated that the male lemur felt unloved by the dominant female lemur in the exhibit. According to the zoo's spokesperson, "Lemur Land" is so named because the lemurs choose how to move around their living space. It is designed so that the zoo's visitors walk through it, coming in close proximity to the lemurs if the animals choose to be friendly and social, which they usually do. The exhibit is home to 10 lemurs that roam its grassy patches and climb up its fruit trees, but it is not completely enclosed. Judging by the record that a lemur has only escaped once before in six years, it seems that the animals are happy in the exhibit; the trouble comes when one is unhappy enough to climb up a high tree to jump over the small fence around the exhibit, which is what the zoo's authorities suggest happened this time. Soon after realizing that a lemur had escaped, the zoo authorities were informed that there had been a lemur spotting around Gilo. In response, they sent out teams of employees over a few days to search the area, but they met with little success. Several days later, the zoo received a phone call from a man who believed that he had hit and injured a lemur with his car, but who was not able to give any more details about the whereabouts of the animal. Roughly two more weeks passed, and the Biblical Zoo staff still had no concrete information about where the lemur was. The Israel Nature and Parks Authority made contact with the Jerusalem Biblical Zoo soon thereafter to report that they had found a wild monkey in the Arab village of Batir, bordering Jerusalem. The authority and the IDF collaborated to enter the village to remove the animal from the home of a family that had adopted and taken care of it. Though the authority had described the animal as a monkey, the zoo's officials confirmed that it was indeed the lemur that had escaped.