Antelope safely returned to zoo after escaping, living in the wild for 5 weeks

According to Lupa, Mary was spotted Saturday night ahead of her capture, and she was spotted with several deer she had apparently befriended during her journey.
Published: May. 7, 2023 at 5:53 PM CDT
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LUDLOW, Mass. (WGGB/Gray News) - A zoo is celebrating the safe return of their one-horned Eland antelope, Mary, on Sunday after her 5-week-long excursion through the wilds of western Massachusetts.

The Hampden County Sheriff’s Office said Mary was taken safely into custody around 11:45 p.m. Saturday night after she was tracked for the last five weeks.

The antelope escaped from the Lupa Zoo in Ludlow on April 1 when a storm damaged her fenced enclosure.

The search for Mary was conducted over five weeks by the Hampden County Sheriff’s Office, along with additional governmental agencies including the USDA and the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife.

In spite of all the help, the son of the zoo’s president did most of the groundwork for bringing Mary back to the zoo.

Wally Lupa told WGGB the antelope was spotted Saturday night, and he was able to capture her and bring her in with a live camera, 100-foot rope, and a trailer.

“She walked right into the trailer, and to say I was relieved would be an understatement,” he said.

The zoo’s president, Joan Lupa, said she was grateful for Mary’s safe return.

“It’s a relief, feeling safe, that she is safe, that there are no other dangers she can encounter,” she told WGGB. “We’re just grateful to the whole community, to the authorities.”

The Hampden County Sheriff’s Department said it was glad the story of Mary’s escape had a happy ending, and that it ended as such mostly due to the hard work of the Lupa Zoo staff.

“Wally mostly slept in his car over the past five weeks as he tried everything imaginable to bring Mary home. He showed amazing compassion and I’m proud of my team and the other law enforcement agencies who all worked together to get to this day,” the sheriff’s office said.

Officers said locating Mary was difficult due to the kind of species she is. Eland antelopes are known for their great eyesight and hearing and their ability to only need sleep in ten-minute intervals. They are also resilient to tranquilizers. Police are crediting the determination and patience of those involved as the reason for Mary’s safe return.

“I’m happy we didn’t have to tranquilize her, and she looks great. She was reunited with her mate this morning and they will slowly be getting back to normal,” Wally Lupa said. “We wouldn’t have been able to get to this day without the help of Sheriff Cocchi and the other departments who jumped in to help. I’m incredibly grateful for everyone I’ve met over the course of this journey.”

According to Wally Lupa, Mary was spotted Saturday night ahead of her capture with several deer she had apparently befriended during her journey.

“It was like something out of a movie,” he said. “But I’m glad it’s over, and maybe tonight I can finally sleep well and in my own bed.”

Joan Lupa said many people have expressed their excitement since the news of Mary’s homecoming made its way to social media.

“Everybody was following up on the story about Mary,” she said. “We have lots of followers of Lupa Zoo, everybody loves our zoo. People were praying for us and people were trying to help.”

The Lupa Zoo staff said they are happy to have Mary back home.

“We just want to thank everyone who helped us out to keep her safe for those five weeks,” Joan Lupa said. “Thanks to them, she’s safe and back home.”