Escaped monkey captured at Woodland Park Zoo

Escaped monkey captured at Woodland Park Zoo »Play Video
The De Brazza's monkey that escaped is shown in his new exhibit the day before his big adventure.
SEATTLE - Visitors to the Woodland Park Zoo got more excitement than they bargained for Thursday morning when a rare monkey escaped from its exhibit and roamed at large through the grounds.

People in the vicinity of the tropical rain forest exhibit were evacuated from the area or hustled into secure buildings until the animal was captured about 45 minutes later.

Zoo officials said the rare De Brazza's monkey was introduced to a new outdoor exhibit on Wednesday, and by Thursday morning it had found an opening through which it could escape.

After leaving the exhibit, at about 10:40 a.m., the 12-year-old monkey crossed a moat, climbed a wall - and disappeared. Zookeepers found the 15-pound animal about 45 minutes later and shot him with a tranquilizer dart.

He's now doing OK, and is being confined in a behind-the-scenes holding area.

Zoo officials said the monkey is not considered dangerous, but visitors were evacuated from the area as a precaution - since he does have teeth and could have bitten someone if he became agitated or frightened.

Sofia Wirth, a 6-year-old girl who was visiting the zoo at the time of the monkey's escape, volunteered to let zookeepers use a banana she was eating to lure the monkey back to its cage.

The animal, known technically as a male De Brazza’s guenon, had been at the zoo since May 2008.

"The animal’s first introduction to the exhibit went without incident yesterday," said Martin Ramirez, Woodland Park Zoo animal curator. "But sometimes unexpected things can happen during animal introductions."

Before this week’s introductions to the outdoor exhibit, the monkey, born at Riverbanks Zoo in South Carolina, and a 6-year-old female DeBrazza's, born at Woodland Park Zoo, were being introduced to each other in the safety of the animal holding area at the zoo’s behind-the-scenes Conservation Center.

The pair has been identified as a breeding pair under the Association of Zoos & Aquariums Species Survival Plan.

"We’ve returned the animal to its behind-the-scenes holding area until further notice. This will allow us to assess the exhibit and make any necessary modifications," added Ramirez.

De Brazza's monkeys are well-known for their excellent camouflage and ability to hide.

In the African wild, the De Brazza's monkey ranges across the swamps, bamboo and dry mountain forests of Angola, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Congo, The Democratic Republic of the Congo, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Gabon, the Cherangani Hills of Kenya, Sudan, and Uganda.

De Brazza's monkeys live for about 22 years. It is a shy, territorial monkey that lives in small social groups.