Many of us have had wild nights. It’s a rite of passage during college years here in the States. But in New Zealand, a 23 year old man has given a new meaning to the term.
John Casford of Wellington described himself as ‘high as a kite’ the night he decided to steal a squirrel monkey for his girlfriend.
As you can imagine, things didn’t go well. After he scaled a boundary fence (where he alleges he broke his leg) he broke into two padlocked areas before making it inside the enclosure. I can’t imagine exactly how high you have to be to break your leg and still continue on this harebrained mission, but I would imagine very.
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The injuries didn’t stop there. Once inside he found a group of these polyamorous monkeys sleeping together. We’ll let the Wellington District Court judge take it from here, per the New Zealand Herald:
“I don’t know what happened in the squirrel monkey enclosure,” said Wellington District Court judge Bill Hastings during John’s sentencing last week. “The squirrel monkeys know. You say you couldn’t find them and I don’t speak squirrel [monkey].
“What I know is that by daybreak all the monkeys were distressed, two of them were injured, and you had a broken leg, two fractured teeth, a sprained ankle, and bruises on your back.”
I could understand this if it involved almost any other kind of monkey. Howler Monkeys could absolutely do some damage. However, squirrel monkeys are very small, measuring roughly 9 to 13 inches long without their tails and weighing in at between 26 and 39 ounces. I mean, look at these things:
They’re adorable, and I wouldn’t be surprised if his girlfriend asked for one.
And though some of the monkeys came out with some scrapes and bruises as well, there’s a clear victor here. After they beat the piss out of him, they went back to their sleeping area and not one tried to escape the enclosure even though Casford had left the enclosure wide open throughout the night.
Police had been chasing John for a string of unrelated offenses over the previous seven months, including an unprovoked assault on a man waiting at traffic lights, an alcohol-fuelled attack at a convenience store, and assaults on a Wellington City Council community safety officer and a night shelter resident who refused to hand over cigarettes
Zoo officials were initially concerned that a monkey had been taken, as they couldn’t find one of the females. They worried for both the monkey and for nearby residences, who could be exposed to illnesses that the monkey could be carrying. Like other primate species, squirrel monkeys may carry numerous diseases that can be transmitted to humans.
The concerns for the monkey’s safety is intertwined with the fact that squirrel monkeys are a threatened species. EcoHealth Alliance describes their plight as such:
Common squirrel monkeys (Saimiri sciureus) are not currently endangered, but they are experiencing habitat loss as the rainforest is developed and converted for agricultural uses. Other species of squirrel monkey (S. oerstedtii, S.boliviensis, and S. vanzolini) are threatened and/or critically endangered in the wild.
Unfortunately, break-ins at zoos are not unusual around the world. Just take a look some excerpts from a video which was filmed by teenagers in London when they broke into the London Zoo:
The New Zealand Herald highlights the issues well:
In 2015 National Geographic reported golden lion tamarins were stolen by professional animal dealers from Zoo Krefeld in Germany.
The magazine reported that in 2011, 400 animals were stolen from European zoos and in 2015, 25 members of the European Association of Zoos and Acquaria reported thefts.
One French zoo had 79 tortoises stolen.
At the time the director of the Association of Zoological Gardens in Germany, Volker Homes, said zoo thefts were “a really severe problem”.
I can’t think of why someone would want 79 tortoises, or even how someone can steal 79 tortoises and not get caught, but I’m sure there is a method to the madness.
The good news here is that the Wellington zoo isn’t short a monkey and Mr. Casford is spending 2 years and 7 months in jail for the break-in and the crime spree beforehand.
— Anastasia Dukova (@a_dukova) December 15, 2018
— RceeP (@ReneeCeeP) April 7, 2018