SOUTHWEST MIAMI-DADE (CBSMiami) — A 21-year-old Southwest Miami-Dade woman who was attacked twice Monday by a ring-tailed lemur is speaking out for the first time, saying the incident was “one of the scariest things I’ve been through.”
In an exclusive interview with CBS4’s Peter D’Oench, Victoria Valledor said, “I was terrified because I didn’t know where this animal had come from. I knew it was a wild animal. But I didn’t know who the owner was or what was going through the animal’s mind. I didn’t know the behavior of it but it kept coming at me. It was one of the scariest things I’ve been through.”
Valledor, who is a senior pre-med student at the University of Miami and hopes to become a neurosurgeon, says it was Monday afternoon when she was attacked outside her grandparents’ home at S.W. 56th Terrace and 140th Place.
Her younger sister Isabella took pictures of the lemur — a primate native to the island of Madagascar.
Valledor showed us what happened as she was leaving the home.
“So I came out and stepped out here and right there was the Lemur beside the house,” she said. “So I saw him for a second. I was out here and he jumped on me and I put my arm up and he got me here, and then he was on me for a good solid minute.”
Valledor’s grandmother Celia Rodon said she grabbed a banana to distract the lemur. Lemurs normally consume fruit, nuts and insects.
“We were very scared,” said Rodon. “At first I thought he was just a cute monkey but when he started jumping on my granddaughter to bite her, I felt like panic.”
Valledor ran across the street and called 911. Florida Fish & Wildlife and Miami-Dade Fire Rescue sent crews to the scene.
Valledor said she was in disbelief when the lemur attacked her a second time.
“I was there by a tree and I see him come walking by and I said, ‘oh my’ and I started back up and he bit me a second time and I made a dash right here to the front door. So I went in and I slammed the door in his face,” she said. “He almost came in the home.”
“I was terrified because I thought he was going to get my face or something like that,” she said.
Valledor, whose wrists are wrapped in white bandages, has had more than 40 rabies shots and faces two more treatments. She said she may have to eventually have as many as 50 rabies shots.
“Honestly I am kind of happy it happened to me and not a child,” she said. “My mom was actually coming over here with my two-year-old brother from day care and if she hadn’t know the Lemur was here, God knows what would have happened. I was thinking, why does somebody have a pet lemur? It doesn’t make sense to me. Then I found out that lemurs are legal in Florida if you have a permit. It seemed incredible to me. I think wild animals should stay in their habitat and not in somebody’s home because something like this can happen and, in this neighborhood, we have kids playing in front. This could have been a child that was attacked and that would have been way worse.”
“I personally don’t think you should have wild animals as pets because it is definitely not safe,” said Valledor. “But all owners should definitely keep them contained and be responsible with them.”
FWC’s captive wildlife division responded to the scene on Monday and was able to capture the lemur.
On Monday, Lorenzo Veloz of FWC said, “Through tricks and practice and a lot of training, they were able to coax it to a kennel and they removed the lemur from the scene.”
Veloz said investigators have identified the owners of the lemur but said the case is under investigation, so the owners are not being named. FWC is trying to find out how the lemur got out and how it ended up outside the family’s home. He said FWC could have more information to release by the weekend.
FWC said several residents in the area near Miller Drive and S.W. 140th Ave. have permits for wild animals.