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Thursday, May 17, 2012

Lemur on the loose! Intrepid animal bounds across houses and gardens in three-mile adventure after escape from wildlife park

By Tammy Hughes

Stunning scenery and beautiful beaches has long made Devon popular for holidaymakers but it as far from the exotic as they come.

So when residents of Berrynrbor spotted a lemur jauntily walking around their sleepy village last Sunday they were more than a little surprised.

Sambaya, a four-year-old male Ring-tailed lemur was snapped sunning himself of a roof and even attempting to climb into someone's window after making his escape from Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park in Ilfracombe, Devon.

Rude awakening: Residents were stunned when they discovered a lemur strolling around their village on Sunday morning

Remarkably the plucky primate had travelled three miles from his home after lock-down at 5.30pm on Saturday, Sunday 12.

He was eventually captured by staff who cornered him in a garden.

Local resident Gavin Denyer, 53, said the animal 'looked like King Julian from the Madagascar films' as it swanned around the village.

His wife Debbie, 51, said: 'When I saw the Lemur coming down the drive I was amazed, the kids came rushing down. Within minutes my son was in the garden feeding it bananas.

'It was quite a friendly Lemur, it wasn’t frightened at all.

Cheeky: The primate peers through a bedroom window

'It sat there for a minute before jumping up onto our utility room roof, looked in one of the bedroom windows, then it got on the roof and looked at the village.'

Sambava is among five Ring-tailed lemurs who ‘free roam’ the 28 acre tourist attraction, which also keeps four Red-ruffed and four black-and-white lemurs in enclosures.

It is believed he became separated from the rest of the group on Saturday evening and climbed over the 13ft perimeter fence.

He was last seen on Saturday evening and was reported missing when he was spotted in the nearby village of Berrynarbor at 8am on Sunday morning.

Sambava had bounded across a series of farmer’s fields before arriving in the village.

It was first seen by Mr Denyer, 53, and his son Mike, 25, as they were driving out of their road at 8am.

Mr Denyer, who works at Ilfracombe Arts College, said: 'We saw an unusual looking animal in the middle of the road.

The lemur was clearly enjoying the sights on a sunny morning

The bright lights of freedom: The lemur relaxes in the sun while keepers try and track him down

'We had to stop for it and we were astonished to see that it was a Ring-tailed lemur.

'We went on our way, but called home to let my wife Debbie know that it had just walked past us and was heading towards the village.

'Debbie stepped out of our front door and was amazed to see the lemur strolling casually down our driveway, eventually stopping in our front yard.'

Debbie added: 'When my husband first called me to say he and Mike had seen a lemur I thought he meant someone dressed up.'

Her daughter Kathryn, 21, and other son Ross, 17, fed Sambava banana while their mother phoned the wildlife park. She got no answer so alerted the police.

However, Sambava then hopped out of their garden and ventured further into the village.

The park’s head keeper Leigh Wigg and a colleague arrived at the scene within minutes and cornered the animal in another garden.

Hungry: A local boy feeds the friendly lemur

What's that! The animal was seen bounding across roof tops

They tempted him close with his favourite food - raisins and grapes - before grabbing him and bundling him into a cage.

Mr Wigg, 38, said: 'The Ring-tailed lemurs are free roaming in the park but they rarely go missing as they are not particularly adventurous.

'He probably went straight over the trees because we retrieved him from the back field, I think he may have gone for an evening walk and got lost.'

Dawn Gilbert, one of the owners of the wildlife park, said: 'It is the second time we have had a lemur escape the park this year.

Seen a lemur? This cheeky chap went on the run from Combe Martin Wildlife and Dinosaur Park

It's a long way down: Sambava looks tentatively from a rooftop

'The time before it was a female. They are clearly getting too mischievous and naughty for their own good.

'It is a shame because at the moment they roam free around the park but now we are thinking we will have to contain them for their own safety.

'You would have thought that 28 acres would be enough for them, but obviously not.'

Lemurs - which can jump 15ft - are originally from Madagascar and are known for their bulging eyes and long tails.



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