Stolen monkeys safely back in zoo

Mid Devon Star: All but one of the five monkeys stolen from Blackpool Zoo have been found and returned, the zoo has said (Lancashire Police/PA)
All but one of the five monkeys stolen from Blackpool Zoo have been found and returned, the zoo has said (Lancashire Police/PA)

Monkeys stolen from a zoo in what police said appeared to be a "planned and pre-meditated" break-in have been found, the zoo has said.

Raiders cut a hole in the perimeter fence of Blackpool Zoo in Lancashire and removed the locks from two separate monkey enclosures on Tuesday.

They took two female and one baby cotton-top tamarin, which are a critically endangered species, and two male emperor tamarins.

But the zoo said four of the five had been recovered in Yorkshire and were now safely back at the zoo.

In a statement posted on its Facebook page, it said: "We are absolutely delighted to confirm that four of the stolen tamarins are safely back at the zoo.

"Sadly, the baby was not found.

"They were recovered by police in Yorkshire late last night and their keeper drove over to collect them.

"We should like to thank everyone involved with the media and social media for spreading the word so far and wide yesterday and to the police and Wildlife Crime Unit for all their hard work and support."

After they were stolen, Lancashire Police said it believed the monkeys were targeted specifically and their details were circulated to all ports and airports in case the thieves tried to take them abroad.

The National Wildlife Crime Unit was also brought in to try to trace them.

The cotton-top tamarin is considered one of the world's most endangered primates.

There are said to be about 6,000 such monkeys left in the wild in their native Colombia, with numbers largely reduced through deforestation.

Lancashire Police said the monkeys were found safe and well after the force was inundated with calls.

A spokesman said no one had yet been arrested in connection with the theft.

Pc Steve Higgs said: "We were inundated with calls from members of the public and I would like to thank everyone for their support.

"This is still a live inquiry as we continue to investigate who was responsible for the thefts.

"I would appeal to anyone who has information or any witnesses who saw anything suspicious on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning to get in touch. "

Charlotte Pennie, head of primates at the zoo, collected the monkeys from Yorkshire.

She said: "We are extremely relieved that four of the monkeys have been found safe and well, although we are also saddened that the baby cotton-top Tamarin has not been found.

"We would like to thank everyone for their support in helping us find the monkeys which were all born here at Blackpool Zoo and are very much part of our family.

"The monkeys have all been checked and have been reintroduced back into their group."

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