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Will No Cage Hold Him? Monkey Again Escapes Zoo


August 15, 2007 [NY Times]

Will No Cage Hold Him? Monkey Again Escapes Zoo

By BRENDA GOODMAN

ATLANTA, Aug. 14 -- For the second time in two weeks, Oliver, a 9-year-old capuchin monkey at a Mississippi zoo, escaped his cage, and this time, his keepers said he proved to be an even more artful dodger.

"I know he wasn't happy when we caught him the last time," said Kirk Nemechek, manager of the Tupelo Buffalo Park and Zoo.

"We had a sighting this morning," Mr. Nemechek said in a telephone interview on Tuesday. "Usually he will come to you. We tried chips, candy, Froot Loops, anything. He wasn't ready to give up."

On July 31, the white-faced monkey popped a relatively simple lock on his cage and went on the lam for more than six days before he was spotted looting the vegetable garden behind a nearby home, Mr. Nemechek said.

With his monkey safely back behind bars, Mr. Nemechek said, he spent $300 on new locks for the cage Oliver shares with Baby, another of the park's five capuchins.

The locks were installed last Friday.

On Monday, Oliver got out of his cage, 20 minutes after his handlers said they had cleaned and locked it. He was seen headed toward the lush landscaping of the Tupelo Country Club.

The new locks were on the ground.

It was unclear if Oliver had shown himself to be a capuchin Houdini or if he had a human accomplice, perhaps an animal rights advocate, Mr. Nemechek said, although he emphasized that that was speculation.

Capuchins are used as helper monkeys for disabled people, he said. "They see a lot of things and they can mimic things." Oliver, he said, "might have a piece of wire hidden in his cage or something" that he used to open the lock.

Whatever the explanation, the chase could not end too soon for Mr. Nemechek, who said he would be happy never to spend another day trekking through the woods in triple-digit temperatures.

At 2 p.m. Tuesday, a call to a tip line put Oliver in the backyard of a woman's home about four and a half miles from the zoo.

Mr. Nemechek called for backup.

"Seven or eight police officers and five or six of our staff surrounded him and we nabbed him," Mr. Nemechek said.

By late afternoon, Oliver was back inside his cage, drinking water to cool off.

Mr. Nemechek said he would try titanium locks.

http://www.nytimes.com/2007/08/15/us/15monkey.html?


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