Exotic mammals – including two white-nosed coatis, two ring-tailed lemurs and three fennec foxes – were discovered along with several rabbits and birds that were being kept in small cages in the garage of a home on Frazho Road. Contrary to reports, there were no aardvarks involved in the rescue.
The Detroit Zoological Society (DZS) was contacted by an animal control officer on Wednesday after capturing a coati on the loose in a Warren neighborhood. The capture led to the discovery of the other animals. Eight members of the DZS animal and veterinary staff assessed the animals at the scene and assisted with the process of removing them from the home.
"The conditions these animals were being kept in were deplorable," said Elizabeth Arbaugh, DZS curator of mammals, adding that the animals seem to be in relatively good health, considering the environment from which they came. "There could be some possible health issues; we'll know more after a complete evaluation."
Some of the confiscated animals are under quarantine at the Zoo's Ruth Roby Glancy Animal Health Complex as staff works to provide proper health care and healthy, balanced diets appropriate for each species. Others will be transferred to the Michigan Humane Society today, while permanent placement of the exotic animals is yet to be determined.
The Detroit Zoological Society is frequently asked to help with the rescue of exotic animals from private owners, pseudo-sanctuaries, roadside zoos and circuses. Past rescues include more than 1,000 exotic animals confiscated from an animal wholesaler in Texas, a polar bear from a tropical circus and lions kept in a junkyard in Kansas.
"Privately owned exotic animals kept as 'pets' often end up in compromised conditions and in need of rescue," said Ron Kagan, DZS executive director and CEO. "We previously worked with the Michigan Humane Society and other organizations to pass legislation barring the ownership of exotic animals in Michigan."
The care of the confiscated exotic animals is being supported by the Kalter/Lezotte Fund for Wildlife Rescue, which was established by the DZS to facilitate the rescue of animals with the intent to provide sanctuary at the Detroit Zoo. The public can contribute to the fund by sending a check, made payable to the Detroit Zoological Society, to the Fund for Wildlife Rescue, 8450 W. 10 Mile Road, Royal Oak, MI 48067, or by calling (248) 336-5704.