COURTESY PHOTO / HONOLULU ZOO
Kapa is the only meerkat left at the Honolulu Zoo.
Zoo stumped over missing critter
Officials are skeptical that someone stole Hulu the meerkat
Honolulu Zoo officials have set up traps, searched underground tunnels and even filed a police report. But nearly three weeks have passed, and there still are no signs of Hulu the missing meerkat.
Hulu mysteriously disappeared Sept. 19 when zoo keepers could not find him in a 500-square-foot enclosure he shares with his friend, Kapa.
"We do a count, and we didn't count up to two; we only saw the one," said zoo Director Ken Redman. "We looked at all possibilities, and so far it's come to no conclusion on anything."
Hulu and Kapa, both 11-year-old, healthy, castrated males, arrived here October 1997 from the Toledo Zoo in Ohio. They have lived together since a third meerkat died of a medical condition about three years ago.
Meerkats, which are not endangered and resemble a small mongoose, are native to Africa and have gained popularity after having been portrayed onstage and on TV as Timon in "The Lion King" and in Animal Planet's "Meerkat Manor."
The animals feed on insects, mice, eggs, small birds, lizards and snakes, tend to live up to their late teens and stay close to their territory. Biscuit traps, however, have not lured Hulu home, and searches for a dead or hiding Hulu have turned up dry. Even if a visitor had leaned over the fence and reached in to grab Hulu, he would not have surrendered easily.
"They are not tame, they are not a pet by any means and they would give a vicious bite," Redman said, noting there is no commercial market for meerkats. "Potentially he could have been stolen, but it's a low probability that would be the case."
It also would be unlikely that the nimble Hulu, whose exhibit is adjacent to bathrooms and a food court, escaped and got eaten by the nearby hyenas or black rhinos, which are much slower, Redman said.
"The chances are extremely slim," he said. "It really remains a mystery."
No signs of Hulu's disappearance have been posted because visitors often report loose or unusual animals. Kapa, meanwhile, is doing fine.
"They prefer to have company but they can live by themselves," Redman said.