Mary the antelope safely returned to Lupa Zoo after month-long journey

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 10:27 AM EDT|Updated: May. 7, 2023 at 6:13 PM EDT
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LUDLOW, Mass. (WGGB/WSHM) - Lupa Zoo in Ludlow 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.

According to Hampden County Sherriff’s Office Senior Public Information Officer Robert Rizzuto, she was taken safely into custody around 11:45 p.m. Saturday night after being tracked for the last 5 weeks.

Western Mass News stopped by the zoo to get the story on how they were able to bring their four-legged friend home.

“Last night, I had an eye on her near the solar panels by the Mass Pike and Chapin and Miller Streets, and was able to bring her in with a live camera, a 100-foot rope, and a trailer,” said Director of Facility Development and Animal Care Wally Lupa. “She walked right into the trailer, and to say I was relieved would be an understatement.”

Visitors were all smiles at the Lupa Zoo Sunday as they celebrated Mary the one-horned antelope’s return after storm damage to her fenced enclosure allowed her to escape on April 1st.

Mary the antelope is returned safely to Lupa Zoo 050723
Mary the antelope is returned safely to Lupa Zoo 050723(Hampden County Sheriff's Office)

President of Lupa Zoo, Joan Lupa, shared her reaction to Mary’s return home to Western Mass News.

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

The search for her was conducted over the last five weeks by Hampden County Sheriff’s Office’s special teams, Ludlow Police, Wilbraham Police, Palmer Police, the USDA, the Massachusetts Division of Fisheries and Wildlife, The Massachusetts Environmental Police, and Dr. Peter Brewer of the Southwick Zoo.

However, Joan’s son, Wally Lupa, did most of the groundwork to bring Mary home. In a statement, the Hampden County Sheriff’s Department said:

“I’m incredibly pleased this story has a happy ending, and that is due to the entire Lupa Zoo staff working tirelessly to bring her home safely. 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.”

Officers explained locating Mary was difficult due to the kind of species she is. Eland antelopes are known for their great eyesight and hearing, as well as 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.”

There is quite the commotion in Ludlow as residents and law enforcement are trying to track down a runaway antelope.

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

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

Joan told us that since the news of Mary’s homecoming made its way to social media, she has had many folks express their excitement.

“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.”

However, for the Lupa Zoo staff, they are just happy to have Mary back at home.

“We just want to thank everyone who helped us out to keep her safe for those 5 weeks,” Joan said. “Thanks to them, she’s safe and back home.”