Someone stole a meerkat from the Perth Zoo because he thought it would 'be cool as a pet'
Perth Zoo

One person fell in love with a meerkat on his trip to the zoo and actually did what most people would only joke about: he took it home with him.

Less than 24 hours before a baby meerkat was officially introduced to the public, it disappeared from the Perth Zoo in Australia. After the meerkat went missing, zookeepers believed it was either taken by a predator or stolen, so they began searching for it.

Two days later, the meerkat was found in Beverley, which is over 80 miles from Perth. The meerkat was taken by Jesse Ray Hooker, who thought the animal would "be cool as a pet." He scooped up the animal from its enclosure and put it in a cooler bag, playing loud music to hide the its yelps for help. "[He thought] it was very cute indeed," Chad Silver, Hooker's lawyer, said. "He fell in love with it." Technically, he's not wrong, but it's also not a reason to take an animal from the zoo.


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After the meerkat was returned, the zoo posted a photo of the animal on Instagram.

Once he was returned, the zoo was worried they might have problems reintroducing him to his family. "He was very stressed and tired and hungry, just like any bub that's been away from mum," Senior vet Simone Vitali said when he was returned. "But after an evening of getting his favorite foods and getting a bit of warmth and a bit of quiet, he's really bounced back quite well, so we're quite happy with his progress so far."

Now the meerkat is now doing just fine. "Our meerkat kit, Salama, is doing well with the rest of the meerkat mob. He is growing fast and currently weighs around 500 grams," Perth Zoo's executive director Wendy Attenborough told The West Australian.

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Hooker was fined $4,000 for taking the animal. He also wrote an apology letter and offered to do community service at the Perth Zoo. According to Attenborough, the zoo decided they "will not be taking up his offer to do community work at Perth Zoo." That's probably a good call.

Now that the meerkat is back at the zoo, everyone can enjoy his cuteness — as long as you look but don't touch.

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If the past year has taught us nothing else, it's that sending love out into the world through selfless acts of kindness can have a positive ripple effect on people and communities. People all over the United States seemed to have gotten the message — 71% of those surveyed by the World Giving Index helped a stranger in need in 2020. A nonprofit survey found 90% helped others by running errands, calling, texting and sending care packages. Many people needed a boost last year in one way or another and obliging good neighbors heeded the call over and over again — and continue to make a positive impact through their actions in this new year.

Upworthy and P&G Good Everyday wanted to help keep kindness going strong, so they partnered up to create the Lead with Love Fund. The fund awards do-gooders in communities around the country with grants to help them continue on with their unique missions. Hundreds of nominations came pouring in and five winners were selected based on three criteria: the impact of action, uniqueness, and "Upworthy-ness" of their story.

Here's a look at the five winners:

Edith Ornelas, co-creator of Mariposas Collective in Memphis, Tenn.

Edith Ornelas has a deep-rooted connection to the asylum-seeking immigrant families she brings food and supplies to families in Memphis, Tenn. She was born in Jalisco, Mexico, and immigrated to the United States when she was 7 years old with her parents and sister. Edith grew up in Chicago, then moved to Memphis in 2016, where she quickly realized how few community programs existed for immigrants. Two years later, she helped create Mariposas Collective, which initially aimed to help families who had just been released from detention centers and were seeking asylum. The collective started out small but has since grown to approximately 400 volunteers.