No mere mys­tery

Cou­ple charged af­ter miss­ing meerkat re­cov­ered

Southern Gazette (Belmont) - - NEWS - Matt Zis

IT reads like a script to Meerkat Manor meets Ace Ven­tura Pet De­tec­tive but the cu­ri­ous dis­ap­pear­ance of a meerkat kit from Perth Zoo last week proved far more se­ri­ous than a tele­vi­sion re-run.

Po­lice con­firmed yes­ter­day they had charged a 22year-old man with steal­ing and a 23-year-old woman with re­ceiv­ing, af­ter a raid on a house in Bev­er­ley on Fri­day evening, about 48 hours af­ter the meerkat dis­ap­peared from the zoo.

Present at the raid was the zoo’s se­nior vet­eri­nar­ian Si­mone Vi­tali and po­lice of­fi­cers from Kens­ing­ton, Can­ning­ton De­tec­tives, Bev­er­ley and York.

Kens­ing­ton Sergeant Dean Kel­land agreed the meerkat mys­tery had been an in­ves­ti­ga­tion like none he had worked on be­fore.

He was thank­ful it came with a sat­is­fy­ing out­come of swiftly re­turn­ing the an­i­mal to zookeep­ers.

“I don’t think there’s any­thing nor­mal about any­thing be­ing stolen from a zoo,” he said. “You hear about it, you hear ru­mours about things like this, but be­ing in­volved in it is a com­pletely dif­fer­ent thing.

“It def­i­nitely got us stand­ing up like a meerkat, I sup­pose.

“We were straight on to it the minute we had the file and the guys and girls ran with it all day un­til con­clu­sion.”

The baby is now back at Perth Zoo’s meerkat en­clo­sure, where it is re­cov­er­ing from its stress­ful or­deal un­der the watch­ful eye of zookeep­ers, who are hope­ful the meerkat mob will wel­come back its youngest mem­ber.

“We will be try­ing to get him back with the group and to see what their re­ac­tions are,” Ms Vi­tali said.

“The keep­ers will be watch­ing that very closely and we’ll be as­sess­ing that re­ally minute by minute to make sure ev­ery­thing is go­ing fine.”

Ini­tially un­sure whether the lit­tle crit­ter had been taken by a preda­tory bird or per­haps stolen, zoo staff launched an im­me­di­ate and com­pre­hen­sive search on Wed­nes­day night.

Po­lice soon be­came in­volved and fol­lowed up nu­mer­ous leads that led them to a house in Bev­er­ley.

“There was one par­tic­u­lar of­fi­cer from Kens­ing­ton who from start to fin­ish yes­ter­day (Fri­day) was in­volved and she did some great work in iden­ti­fy­ing a lo­ca­tion where we thought the meerkat was,” Sgt Kel­land said.

“I knew the type of of­fi­cers that were on it and I knew they would do every sin­gle thing and chase down every sin­gle lead in or­der to make sure that we had a suc­cess­ful out­come.”

While po­lice and zoo staff con­tinue to in­ves­ti­gate how the meerkat dis­ap­peared from the zoo, Ms Vi­tali said the zoo would have to look at in­creas­ing se­cu­rity around all of its ex­hibits.

“You’ve got these open fa­cil­i­ties, which you need to give the an­i­mals good wel­fare – you like to have them open with lots of sun­light, lots of air and lots of height – and when you have an­i­mals in those fa­cil­i­ties there is al­ways the risk of theft, there is al­ways the risk of preda­tory birds and that’s some­thing we’re go­ing to need to re­view quite care­fully to see if we need to make changes,” she said.

The man and woman will be sum­monsed to ap­pear in court at a later date.

Back home .... a baby meerkat is back at Perth Zoo af­ter go­ing miss­ing.

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