San Francisco Zoo squirrel monkey returns home

Banana-Sam the squirrel monkey with Jill Andrews of San Francisco Zoo

Jill Andrews, assistant curator of primates at the San Francisco Zoo, holds Banana-Sam during his physical examination on New Year’s Eve upon his safe return to the zoo. Photo courtesy San Francisco Zoo.

Banana-Sam, the squirrel monkey stolen from the San Francisco Zoo, has been found in Stern Grove and returned safely to the zoo.

KTVU reports that according to police, a local resident walking through Stern Grove spotted the monkey in a tree just before 9 p.m. The person apparently coaxed Banana-Sam into a backpack, and the monkey was returned to the zoo in good health by 9 p.m. Saturday.

Banana-Sam was taken from an enclosure in the zoo’s primate center Thursday night. It was not clear whether the person who found him received the $5,000 reward the zoo had offered for Banana-Sam’s return.

The zoo, which holds 17 squirrel monkeys other than Banana Sam, said it was concerned on many fronts after he was taken because he required a special diet to survive.. Also, while squirrel monkeys are not large animals, they have sharp teeth and will bite if provoked.

“This was a criminal act of vandalism and trespassing and we are working with the police to identify the perpetrators,” said Tanya Peterson, president and executive director of the San Francisco Zoological Society Friday.

The zoo has had animal thefts before, according to the Associated Press: two teenagers were arrested 11 years ago on suspicion of stealing koalas to impress their girlfriends.

Common squirrel monkeys like Banana Sam are not endangered, and are often seen in pet markets and medical research. While some states allow keeping monkeys as pets, in California it is illegal.

News of the stolen monkey spread quickly on the Internet Friday, and someone set up a fake Twitter account tracking the alleged whereabouts of Banana Sam.

 This article has been updated to include a new photo of Banana-Sam the squirrel monkey after his return to the zoo.

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