A drunk man, in an attempt to impress his girlfriend, entered a zoo’s squirrel monkey enclosure to capture one of the primates, only to be left beaten and bruised by the troop.
John Owen Cashford snuck through an insecure gate before cutting off two padlocks at Wellington Zoo in New Zealand to catch one of the 10-inch tall squirrel monkeys, only to be later found with a broken leg and other injuries the next morning.
The morning after the attempted burglary, zoo staff were unable to find one of the squirrel monkeys and believed someone may have stolen it. However, they later found the injured female monkey hiding in the cage, still frightened after Casford’s attempt. By daybreak all the monkeys were distressed, with two injured.
At his hearing, Wellington District Court judge Bill Hastings said, “Your intention was to capture [a monkey] and bring it home to your girlfriend. Your attempt was not successful.” For his punishment, the 23-year-old was ordered to attend a Restorative Justice hearing, during which zookeepers told him that he had traumatized the simians.
The judge joked, “I don’t know what happened in the squirrel monkey enclosure. The squirrel monkeys know. You say you couldn’t find them and I don’t speak squirrel. What I know is that by daybreak all the monkeys were distressed, two of them were injured, and you had a broken leg, two fractured teeth, a sprained ankle, and bruises on your back. You targeted a living creature.”
The altercation left the “high as a kite” man with a broken leg, two broken teeth, a sprained ankle, and multiple bruises. It still remains unclear exactly how the would-be-burglar was left so badly injured. However, squirrel monkeys have been known to attack humans whenever they feel threatened and appear in several dangerous animals lists.
In court, the defense claimed the accused was over-imbued with alcohol and was trying to impress a young girl when he went into the zoo. The perpetrator admitted that he tried to burgle the zoo and pleaded guilty to all charges. He later said it was a blessing he was unable to catch any of the monkeys, both for his sake as well as that of the monkey’s.
Squirrel monkeys are also known as saimiri and are an endangered species which grow to 35cm (with an additional 35 to 42cm tail), while weighing up to 1100g.
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