Thursday, May 08, 2008

Spider Monkey Killed And One Missing From Vancouver Zoo Break-In

mia the monkeyJocko and Mia had been together for 15 years when someone brutally ended their love affair.

Staff at the Greater Vancouver Zoo were devastated Wednesday to find Jocko, a 17-year-old male spider monkey, lying dead inside the enclosure he shared with his longtime companion, Mia.

Mia, meanwhile, was nowhere to be found. The 17-year-old female monkey with the bright blue eyes is presumed to have been stolen during an overnight break-in.

“We’re pretty much a wreck,” said zoo representative Jody Henderson of the mood at the facility Wednesday.

“They are our children, there is no doubt about it.”

The break-in is believed to have occurred sometime between 9 p.m. Tuesday and 7:45 a.m. Wednesday, when the primate zoo keeper made the grim discovery.

Henderson said it’s not clear how anyone got onto the zoo grounds, but added it appears the suspect or suspects headed directly to the primate cage.

Bolt cutters were used to cut a hole through the chainlink fence surrounding the monkeys’ outdoor enclosure.

The matter has been turned over to Langley RCMP, who continue to hunt for suspects in the case.

Cpl. Peter Thiessen said the motive for the break-in is unclear, but speculated the 20-pound female monkey may have been stolen as a pet or to be sold on the black market.

“This is a significant theft,” he said.

Spider monkeys — a threatened species native to South America — are worth about $5,000 each.

Henderson said neither Mia nor Jocko — who were born in captivity and acquired from an Ontario zoo — have been directly handled by their keepers, and are considered wild.

“Any kind of handling would have been done through the fence. As with all the animals here at the zoo, we try to keep the situation natural, as much as you can for a captive environment,” she said.

Spider monkeys are considered among the most intelligent of their species, and, though small in stature, are incredibly agile and fierce when protecting their young or mates.

That protective instinct may have led to Jocko’s death, said Henderson.

“If anybody came in that enclosure, there would definitely have been some form of aggression,” she said.

Thiessen said whoever broke into the monkey pen may have sustained scratches and cuts.

The cause of Jocko’s death is not yet known, and there were no overt signs of trauma to the body.

A necropsy has been scheduled for as soon as possible to help provide answers, said Henderson.

As for Mia’s fate, Henderson said staff remain extremely concerned.

Monkeys require specialized care, diet and activities to thrive, she said.

“You need to be educated in what you’re doing . . . the average person just wouldn’t have a clue what to do.”

Mia is described as having dark brown fur, with a light blond chest and steel-blue eyes. She is about a half-metre tall with a very long tail.

Henderson said anyone who spots Mia should call the zoo and not approach her because she has very sharp teeth and could attack because she is traumatized.

Story here.

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