Was it the longing for freedom, friends or snacks that drove the monkey to undertake his daring escape?
Only the Japanese macaque himself knows for sure. He has evaded the hands of pursuing animal keepers since Sunday, when he escaped from an enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie, Scotland, and fled into the Scottish highlands.
Park officials brought in thermal drones to help them search for the animal and asked residents to report sightings.
The life of the escaped monkey has brought a whirlwind of media attention to the relatively remote communities of Kingussie and Kincraig (combined population: around 1,500 humans). The amusing residents, who have given the animal the nickname “Kingussie Kong”, have been interested in its fate, and journalists have followed the animal keepers as they swept the hills.
“There has been an epic daily monkey hunt in this town for the last few days,” said Carl Nagle, of Kincraig, adding that an animal on the loose was “a novelty” in this usually quiet town. “You might think we’re chasing an international fugitive rather than an innocent monkey.”
On Sunday, after hearing about the escape, Nagle walked downstairs and was greeted with a surreal sight: There he was, the monkey of the hour, nibbling on nuts under a bird feeder in Nagle’s backyard.
“I look myself; I looked at it,” he said Tuesday. He described the monkey’s expression as “timid.”
“He knew he wasn’t where he was supposed to be,” Nagle said. It was, he said, “shocking and wonderful at the same time.”
Animal handlers soon appeared and the monkey ran away towards the trees, he said. The monkey was spotted again on Tuesday and park authorities said they were patrolling the local area and had requested help from a local rescue service.
The Japanese macaque, also known as the snow monkey, is an intelligent species of primate native to Japan and was once hunted for food before protections helped the population recover. The animal was not “presumably dangerous” to humans and pets, but authorities warned the public not to approach it. “We are hopeful that the monkey will return to the park if it cannot find food elsewhere,” the charity that runs the wildlife park said in a statement. statement.
The monkey had been part of a troop of more than 30 animals at Highland Wildlife Park. Keith Gilchrist, the park’s director of operations, said he may have gotten caught up in the stresses of the breeding season. “Instead of fighting, it seems that this one simply tried and passed the perimeter fence of the facility.” he told the BBC.
Nagle hopes the monkey enjoys its freedom before returning home.
“Everyone is rooting for this monkey,” he said. “He must be having fun living his best life.”