Zoo Boise was closed until about 1 p.m. Saturday while police investigated a break-in that left a male Patas monkey dead. Detectives recovered blood at the scene and are testing it to see if it belongs to the monkey or to one of the suspects.
They also found a gray ballcap they believe one of the suspects dropped. The cap has a white design of a skull with a small red logo and wings.
A zoo security guard called the police at 4:30 a.m. after seeing two men in dark clothes, one inside the zoo, the other outside the fence near the primate exhibit. The men ran when they saw the guard. The man inside the fence ran into the zoo’s interior.
Police soon arrived, along with Zoo Director Steve Burns. Police searched the zoo twice for the suspect, once with a thermal imager, but found no one.
Burns said they were searching when they heard a groaning sound.
“We didn’t know what it was, whether it was an animal or a human,” he said.
It was the severely injured monkey lying next to the fence near where the guard had seen the suspects. The monkey appeared to have a wound on its head.
Zoo veterinarian Holly Peters arrived within 15 minutes, Burns said, but the monkey died a short time later. Peters performed a necropsy Saturday afternoon that revealed the animal died of blunt force trauma to its head and neck.
The monkey shared a cage with another male Patas monkey that was not harmed. Police have not said how the men got into the zoo, nor how they were able to open the monkeys’ cage. No other animal at the zoo was harmed.
The zoo is never left unattended, said Burns. A guard is on duty from 5 p.m. to 7 a.m., when staffers are not there, every day of the year. A guard was on duty Saturday at the time of the break-in.
Burns said there have not been other break-ins during the 15 years he’s been at Zoo Boise.
The staff hasn’t yet had time to review what happened Saturday, nor talked about what security changes might be made in the future, he said.
Staffers greeted news of the monkey’s death with “a lot of shock, a lot of tears, a lot of devastation,” said Burns.
“One said it feels like someone broke into their house and harmed one of their children,” he said.
The zoo’s animals are not pets, he said, but staffers who care for them on a daily basis for many years build strong attachments.
As do visitors.
“The monkeys are always among the visitors’ favorites,” said Burns. “It’s going to be hard to explain to kids that there are people in the world who would do something like this.”
Patas monkeys are ground dwellers from the African plains. Adults like the monkey that was killed stand about two-and-a-half feet tall and weigh 35 pounds.
Both of Zoo Boise’s Patas monkeys came from the Lowry Park Zoo in Tampa Bay, Fla., three years ago.
“Because monkeys are social animals we are concerned about the welfare of the remaining animal,” said Burns on Saturday.
The zoo staff will decide whether to find a new companion for its surviving monkey or move him to another zoo.
Zoo Boise was recently re-accredited by the Association of Zoos & Aquariums, a process that included a review to ensure it meets standards of animal care, veterinary programs, conservation, education and safety.
The AZA requires zoos and aquariums to successfully complete the accreditation process every five years in order to be members of the association. The zoo has never been denied accreditation.
Anna Webb: 377-6431