James Trinh, 5, shows how Maki the Lemur went into this house before being caught at the playground of the Hope Lutheran Playground on Friday, Oct. 16, 2020 in South San Francisco, Calif.Paul Kuroda / Special to The Chronicle
Five preschoolers got an exciting extracurricular lesson Thursday afternoon when they watched handlers recapture Maki, the San Francisco Zoo’s missing lemur, after he hopped into their playground.
Five-year old James Trinh spotted Maki in the parking lot of Hope Lutheran Day School as he made his way to his mother’s car, the school’s director Cynthia Huang said Friday afternoon.
James caught a glimpse of the furry fugitive and exclaimed, ‘There’s a lemur! There’s a lemur!’ Huang said.
Huang, who hadn’t heard about Maki’s mysterious disappearance from the zoo, was skeptical at first.
“We’ve had coyotes, skunks, raccoons,” the director said. “I thought, ‘Are you sure it’s not a raccoon?’”
It was definitely not a raccoon.
Maki scampered from the parking lot into the school’s playground, where he took refuge in a miniature play house.
The school called the Daly City police, who quickly alerted animal control and zoo officials. The children, parents and teachers watched as caretakers coaxed the errant lemur into a transport cage—without the use of tranquilizers.
“The kids watched the whole rescue,” Huang said. “The best part is that they got a private showing, up close.”
For Huang, Maki’s reappearance at the school was a rare moment of joy in an otherwise stressful time. The Christian pre-school recently returned to in-person lessons after months of virtual learning.
“We returned to school, but everything is so different for them,” she said. “I’m so glad they had a happy thing happen.”
She hopes the children will look back and remember the pandemic as the time they witnessed a once-in-a-lifetime lemur rescue mission, not the masks and the plexiglass.
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Maki vanished from his enclosure at the zoo’s Lipman Family Lemur Forest habitat Tuesday night. Police launched an investigation soon after.
The ring-tailed lemur’s days-long disappearance is being investigated as a burglary because investigators found evidence of “forced entry to the animal enclosure” where the endangered animal was housed.
Police asked for the public’s help in locating the animal and zoo officials offered a $2,100 reward $100 for every year of Maki’s life.
Huang was unsure Friday if the school would receive the reward, but said she had heard rumors that the zoo would make a donation.
“It was exciting and we are just thankful that we are involved,” she said.