PERTH, Australia (KXAN/NBC) — A man who couldn’t resist a month-old meerkat was fined Wednesday for snatching the baby animal from a zoo in Australia. The unnamed meerkat disappeared in September, the day before he was due to be shown to the public for the first time.
Perth zoo staff feared he had been snatched by a bird but police found him two days later, 80 miles away in a small town. Jesse Ray Hooker, 23, was fined $2,800 (in USD) in court after pleading guilty to the theft.
Hooker’s lawyer says he “fell in love” with the meerkat after seeing it at the zoo.
“The outcome was very favorable,” lawyer Chad Silver said. “The judge took into account all the relevant considerations, including the formal apology made to the Perth Zoo. As a sign of the support to the Perth Zoo, our client has offered to visit the zoo and apologize sincerely for his behavior. But we would all remind the community that the anger that they felt is acceptable and that they should visit the zoo as a sign of the support rather than just simply writing e-mails.”
Zoo staff feared the meerkitten’s mob would reject him, but he’s been welcomed back into the fold and given a name from the East African language of Kiswahili: Salama, which means “safe.”