Was it a desire for freedom, friends or snacks that pushed the monkey to undertake his daring escapade?
Only the Japanese macaque itself knows for sure. He escaped the hands of animal keepers who have been chasing him since Sunday, when he escaped from an enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie, Scotland, and fled to the Scottish Highlands.
Park officials called in thermal drones to help search for the animal and asked residents to report any sightings.
The monkey’s free-roaming attracted media attention to the relatively isolated communities of Kingussie and Kincraig (combined population: approximately 1,500 humans). Amused locals, who gave the animal the nickname “Kingussie Kong,” found themselves invested in its plight, and journalists followed the animal keepers as they swept the hills.
“There has been an epic monkey hunt in this village on a daily basis over the last few days,” said Carl Nagle, from Kincraig, who added that an animal on the loose was “a first” for the usually quiet village. “You would think we were chasing an international fugitive instead of an innocent monkey.”
On Sunday, after hearing about the escape, Mr. Nagle came down and was greeted by a surreal sight: There he was, the monkey of the moment, munching on nuts under a bird feeder in Mr. Nagle’s backyard.
“He looked at me; I looked at it,” he said Tuesday. He described the monkey’s expression as “sheepish.”
“He knew he wasn’t where he was supposed to be,” Mr. Nagle said. It was, he said, “both shocking and wonderful.”
Animal keepers quickly arrived and the monkey fled toward 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 primate native to Japan and was once hunted for food, before protections helped the population recover. The animal was not “suspected dangerous” to humans or pets, but authorities warned the public not to approach it. “We hope 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 was part of a troop of more than 30 animals at Highland Wildlife Park. Keith Gilchrist, park operations manager, said he could have been caught up in tensions related to the breeding season. “Rather than fighting, it appears that he simply charged forward and crossed the perimeter fence of the compound,” he told the BBC.
Mr Nagle hopes the monkey will enjoy his freedom before returning home.
“Everyone supports this monkey,” he said. “He must be having fun living his best life.”