How A Preschooler Helped Solve A Lemur Kidnapping From The San Francisco Zoo

The man accused of stealing the lemur could spend up to a year in jail, federal prosecutors said Monday.

A man was arraigned Monday for allegedly stealing a lemur from the San Francisco Zoo last year. He was arrested in October following the animal’s discovery by a 5-year-old boy, whose school alerted authorities. 

According to federal prosecutors, Cory John McGilloway, 31, of Los Angeles, is accused of taking the 21-year-old ring-railed lemur named Maki from the zoo’s enclosure on Oct. 13.

McGilloway, who appeared via video link at a hearing at the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California from a Los Angeles Jail on Monday, was charged with violating the Endangered Species Act. He could face as much as $50,000 in fines and up to one year in prison if convicted of the federal misdemeanor count.

Last year, preschooler James Trinh spotted the lemur in the parking lot of Hope Lutheran Day School in Daly City while walking to his mom’s car, the school’s director Cynthia Huang told The San Francisco Chronicle at the time.

Huang wasn’t sure what to make of the stripy intruder, thinking perhaps it was a raccoon. But James was clear: “There’s a lemur! There’s a lemur!” he said, per Huang.

The school called the Daly City Police, which alerted zoo and animal control officials. Kids, parents and teachers watched as the authorities captured the creature. 

San Francisco Zoo Director Tanya Peterson gave the school the $2,100 reward that was offered for Maki’s safe return, ABC 7 reported. Zookeepers said Maki was hungry and dehydrated when he arrived back at the zoo, but otherwise OK.

Earlier that day, a woman filmed a man believed to be McGilloway walking a lemur on a leash on Treasure Island off the shore of San Francisco.

McGilloway was arrested that night in San Rafael after police received reports of a stolen dump truck and found him driving it, according to court documents reported by The Washington Post. A stainless steel bowl belonging to the zoo was discovered in his car and his phone contained images of Maki sitting on his lap and behind the wheel of the car. There was also DNA that reportedly linked him to the leash and the zoo enclosure.

Maki was reported missing the day before. Authorities found evidence of forced entry to his enclosure in the Lipman Family Lemur Forest habitat.

James, who later received a certificate of honor from the city and lifetime zoo membership for his effort, had no doubt at all about the animal he saw.

“A lemur,” he told an ABC7News reporter when asked what it looked like. “Grey, black and white.”

His advice? “Call the zookeeper!”