Stolen Zoo Monkey Found Safe

"Banana-Sam" vanished after an overnight heist at the zoo.

By Mike Anderson
|  Monday, Jan 2, 2012  |  Updated 1:28 PM EDT
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San Francisco St. Pat's Parade

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This is not the actual monkey but is a three-week-old baby squirrel monkey.

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The identity of a monkey stolen from the San Francisco Zoo Friday was confirmed by zoo officials, after a bystander coaxed the animal from shrubs in Stern Grove, a park about a mile from the zoo.

Banana Sam was "hungry, trembling and thirsty," but a full physical examination showed he was in good health, zoo spokesman Danny Latham said.

The bystander said he persuaded the 17-year-old squirrel monkey into his backpack, "Monkey Trouble" style, and then called police. Maybe they got the backpack idea from the 1994 film. Check out 1:09:

Law enforcement spokesman Carlos Manfredi said the little mammal was returned to the zoo within an hour.

 

"We are so thankful to the community and to the San Francisco Police Department for this happy ending," zoo director Tanya Peterson said in a statement. "I know it's been extremely stressful for zoo staff during this time, but we are grateful Banana Sam is back at the zoo where he belongs."

Sam went missing when vandals apparently cut through a zoo gate overnight. Then they got onto the roof of the primate exhibits. The zoo found two holes cut through the mesh net where Banana Sam was stolen.

No one has been arrested, and no suspects have been identified. "We're looking at every possible avenue, including the bystander," Manfredi said.

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

Squirrel monkeys are not endangered, but they are sometimes found in illegal pet trade markets. They are also used in medical research.

Friday afternoon, someone claiming to be Banana Sam started a Twitter account under the username @SF_BananaSam. The user claimed to be an escapee from the zoo and had 2,224 followers as of 2:41 a.m.

"Heading for something called the "Rainforest Cafe," @SF_BananaSam tweeted. "Sounds promising!"

A $5,000 reward was originally offered for the monkey's safe return, but SFGate reported the money had not been paid out yet. There is a possibility that the person who returned Banana-Sam was the same person who stole him. Also, the reward may have been more than the thief could have earned selling Banana-Sam on the street.

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