It’s not every day that residents of the Scottish village of Kincraig get to see a monkey in their yard. But that’s what has been happening in January 2024, after a snow monkey escaped from a zoo in the Scottish highlands.
According to The Guardian, as of Jan. 31, 2023, the fugitive primate was last seen less than a mile from the zoo, and officials are hopeful that he will eventually find his way back to the zoo. Here are details about the monkey’s escape and the ensuing search to find him.
A Japanese macaque monkey escaped the zoo, and is on the run in the Scottish highlands.
The monkey at the center of the search efforts is a male Japanese macaque, nicknamed "Kingussie Kong," who was living at Highland Wildlife Park. The park is actually a zoo, located near Cairngorms National Park in the Scottish highlands. The Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS) operates the park.
Japanese macaques are native to the mountains and highlands of Japan, per the New England Primate Conservancy. They are often called snow monkeys because they tend to live in colder temperatures. You’ve most likely seen pictures of Japanese macaques, aka snow monkeys, bathing in hot springs while it is snowing.
This all started on Jan. 28, 2024, when animal handlers at Highland Wildlife Park noticed that one monkey was missing from the group of about 34 macaques at the park, The New York Times reported. Park operations manager Keith Gilchrist told the BBC that the young male monkey may have left to avoid getting in a fight with older males in the group.
"This time of year is breeding season, so tensions run a little bit high, and sometimes fights break out over breeding rights,” Gilchrist told the BBC.
There's also the chance that the monkey saw his opportunity to save himself from the stresses of captivity, and took it.
The monkey has been spotted in several places in Scotland.
Since his escape, the monkey has been showing up in the yards of residents who live in the nearby villages of Kingussie and Kincraig. Some people have started calling him “Kingussie Kong,” reported The New York Times.
Kincraig resident Carl Nagle heard about the escaped monkey on Facebook but was still surprised to see the primate helping himself to Nagle’s bird feeder, the BBC reported. "I looked out the window, and there he was, proud as punch, standing against the fence eating nuts that had fallen down from one of the bird feeders," Nagle told the BBC.
After enlisting help from a Cairngorm mountain rescue team, a drone finally spotted the monkey three days after his escape. The drone footage shows him hiding in brush just 300 meters from the park.
“Unfortunately, he wasn’t in a position where we were confident we could bring him in safely, but he is making his way closer to the park,” Gilchrist said in a statement posted to the RZSS website, where daily updates are given on the monkey’s whereabouts and the search effort.
Zoo officials are asking residents in the area to remove bird feeders and other possible food sources from outside so the monkey will be more inclined to head home for dinner.
While we hope all turns out well for this monkey, his escape raises the question again of whether wild animals should be kept in zoos at all. Captive animals are known to develop zoochosis, as they are deprived of their natural habitat, behaviors, and more, per In Defense of Animals. Zoos exist to make a profit, and it's impossible for the well-being of the animals to be their No. 1 priority — because if it was, they wouldn't be in zoos at all.
And while some are concerned about dangers Kingussie Kong may face while on the run in Scotland, there is a flamingo who has been happily living in the wild after fleeing a zoo nearly two decades ago — so anything's possible.