A bunch of animals made a monkey out of a thief when they scratched and bit him as he stole a primate from a zoo, a court heard yesterday.
The creatures were said to have gone wild as a gang, including Marlon Brown, broke into an enclosure to steal Bolivian squirrel monkey Spongebob.
Brown bled from his wounds, allowing police to identify him through his DNA, it was alleged.
Spongebob is valued at £2,000 on the black market.
He was found in the street a few days later and returned to his home – only to be spurned by his fellow monkeys. He had to be moved to another zoo.
Brown was part of a gang of about eight people who allegedly waited until closing time at Chessington World of Adventures to launch the raid last July.
They used a stick to prise open wire meshing at the enclosure and stashed friendly Spongebob into a rucksack, a jury heard.
But the nine other monkeys leapt to their cage-mate's defence.
One jumped on Brown's head as he reached into their cave to retrieve his passport, which had fallen from the rucksack.
They scratched his back and bit his fingers. Police later arrested Brown.
Sonia Freeman, head of mammals at Chessington in Surrey, said: 'Someone handed in a monkey fitting Spongebob's description.
'He was extremely nervous and very frightened.
'He had been quite a laidback, happy little monkey. He was very thirsty and had a kink in his tail he didn't have beforehand.'
Spongebob was handreared in South Africa and came to Chessington as part of the European Protection Programme.