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City news, 17.08.2004 12:10

Monkey Family Robinson Gets Fright


Monkey Family Robinson Gets Fright

By Irina Titova


Two of six monkeys that were transferred from the Leningrad Zoo to an island in the middle of the Yelagin Island's Central Park of Culture and Rest in early July tried to escape their temporary home early this month.

Domna, a female pigtail macaque, escaped from the island by swimming back to the park on Aug. 7. A day later Taras, a male and head of the group, followed her. Scientists from the zoo tracked the fugitives down before they could leave the park.

It is presumed that Domna and Taras fled the island after having a stressful encounter with humans, who are forbidden to visit the island.

"We found the damaged documents of a man on the island," said zoo employee Boris Topolyansky.

"We assume that the man tried to get to the island and probably teased the monkeys, who responded aggressively," he said.

Zoo staff found a receipt for a mobile phone payment by the man and called him. When the man arrived to pick up his documents he had a bandage on his arm. This made the zoo staff think the monkeys had hurt him, but the man made no comment on the injury and left in a hurry.

The zoo has been putting groups of monkeys on the park's islands for several years as part of scientific research. However, this year a group of Pigtail macaques (Macacas nemestrina) were taken there just to have a rest.

"Monkeys love being in nature," Topolyansky said. "They become healthier and happier."

In nature, monkeys eat a broader variety of food, bask in the sun and have space for activities, he said.

"They eat bark, pick out the little worms from under the bark and eat grass," he added. "Their fur then becomes of better quality, they get more active."

Nevertheless, scientist Nina Savina, who supervises the monkeys, still brings them supplementary food from the zoo every day, Topolyansky said.

Pigtail macaques first lived on the park's island in 1998 and 1999.

At that time scientists were pursuing two goals: to study the processes of adaptation of monkeys born in a zoo to the natural conditions of the Northwest, and to research social and feeding behavior of monkeys in the wild conditions.

The results showed that monkeys born in captivity are able to quickly adapt to natural conditions, can find food, and survive.

Topolyansky said that this year the zoo expects that the monkeys' little vacation on the island will result in some babies since life in nature activates the animals' instinct for fertility.

However, zoo staff are concerned about the behavior of some of the park's visitors who break the rule and enter the island, he added.

"Monkeys consider the island their home and get angry if someone enters it. People should be aware that this type of monkey has fangs similar to a sheep dog's, but their reaction time is much faster."

Meanwhile, after their little adventure, Taras and Domna had to go back to the zoo. Scientists say that if a monkey tries to escape by swimming once, nothing will stop her from doing it again.

The remaining male monkeys will stay on the island for a while, maybe through September, until it gets cold.

News source:

(c) 2000