Maki — the SF zoo lemur that captured hearts around the world after he was kidnapped (and then recovered) in October of 2020 — has passed away at the ripe old age of twenty-two, according to San Francisco Zoo & Gardens officials.
Outside the controlled confines of captivity, most ring-tailed lemurs — the species of primate Maki belonged to — live about seventeen years old in the wild. And that's if they even make it to maturity, which less than half of lemurs accomplish due to a combination of naturally-occurring predators, deforestation, and illegal poaching. At 22 years old, Maki was an exception to the rule, even among captive-reared lemurs; he was also one of the oldest lemurs in the Zoo's collection.
Maki captured the hearts of the public after he was kidnapped and recovered in October 2020. He is a symbol of resilience, and we are so thankful that he was able to thrive with his group upon his safe return. pic.twitter.com/8lSFYXk2sS— San Francisco Zoo (@sfzoo) March 5, 2022
Maki survived being previously abducted in October of 2020 by thirty-year-old Cory McGilloway, who was arrested by San Rafael police after the lemur was spotted by a toddler strolling around Daly City Playground. After going missing for 36 hours, the senior primate was found dehydrated, malnourished, and in need of medical care — but Makin managed to pull through, again rejoining his troop at the zoo's Lipman Family Lemur Forest.
However, given a recent age-related acute kidney disease diagnosis, zookeepers and veterinary care staff knew Maki was on borrowed time. Exactly how long they had with him was unclear.
On Friday, the widely cherished, charismatic lemur left this mortal coil, though his very survival through his previous abduction at such an old age was nothing short of "remarkable."
“The fact that Maki survived his ordeal to thrive among his group for more than a year and a half is truly remarkable,” said Tanya M. Peterson, CEO and Executive Director of San Francisco Zoological Society in an email to SFist. “Maki became a symbol of resilience and bravery, becoming a fan favorite. His story increased awareness of endangered lemurs worldwide. We are heartbroken for this loss.”
The San Francisco Zoo wrote on Twitter that Maki had grown into a "symbol of resilience" since his kidnapping. Maki trusted his caretakers "like no other lemur," and, because he was the lowest ranking member of his ring-tailed lemur group, Maki would often choose to eat next to zookeepers rather than among the other long-tailed primates; Maki's favorite food was purple grapes, and he had a particular dislike for green ones.
He trusted his caretakers like no other lemur and as the lowest ranking of his ring-tailed lemur group, he often chose to eat next to them rather than his group. His personality filled the forest, and he will be forever missed 🖤🤍🖤🤍 pic.twitter.com/XQVj7feryY— San Francisco Zoo (@sfzoo) March 5, 2022
"His personality filled the forest, and he will be forever missed," the SF Zoo continues on Twitter.
We'll surely miss the medium-sized primate, too. (We also didn't have getting overtly emotional over the passing of a senior lemur on our 2022 bingo card, either.)
Like the 90-plus other subspecies and species of lemurs, the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) estimates that over 95% of lemurs, including ring-tailed lemurs, face extinction in the next twenty years due to rampant deforestation on Madagascar — the only place in the world where lemurs exist in the wild.
Image: Courtesy of San Francisco Zoo & Gardens