Originally Leonardo was used in a magic show, and then he was sold a few years later to a roadside zoo on the Arizona-Mexico border. Searles received calls from the public for years about Leonardo asking if something could be done. She called the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) and was told they couldn't do anything because the zoo was licensed, meaning the zoo was legally allowed to keep the animal.
"I kind of gave up on it, but told the USDA that if that place gets closed down, I'll help you place the animals and will take the cat," Searles said.
That day finally came in 2013. She helped find placement for the primates through the American Sanctuary Association (ASA). The USDA told Searles that Leonardo might not make it because he was in such bad shape, so Searles and a team of volunteers drove five hours to pick him up. He was sedated and placed in a large locking steel crate with ventilation holes for transport.