What animals! Thieves broke into San Francisco Zoo overnight and stole a squirrel monkey named Banana-Sam.
Staffers this morning were stunned to find the 17-year-old primate missing from its exhibit, the zoo said in a statement Friday. Vandals had breached the exhibit to gain access to Banana-Sam, who weighs about 2 pounds and is more than a foot tall.
If you find the monkey, don’t try to pet him: Despite his cute name and small, cuddly appearance, Banana-Sam has “extremely sharp teeth” and “will bite if provoked,” zoo officials said.
The vandals cut a perimeter gate overnight and climbed on top of a roof sheltering five primate exhibits. They cut two holes into the mesh of the squirrel monkey exhibit.
“This was a criminal act of vandalism and trespassing, and we are working with police to identify the perpetrators,” San Francisco Zoological Society president and executive director Tanya Peterson said.
Banana-Sam arrived at the zoo with 20 other squirrel monkeys after funding for a local research program was discontinued.
A reward of $1,000 was offered Friday for credible information leading to the return of Banana-sam, according to a tweet from an SF Zoo employee.
A $1,000 reward for credible information leading to the return of Banana-Sam. Any information about the animal should be sent to SFPD. — Anthony Brown (@anthonybrown) December 30, 2011
The reward was later increased to $5,000 thanks to a pledge from a private donor, zoo spokesman Danny Latham said late Friday.
The zoo, which keeps about 20 squirrel monkeys, said it is concerned on many fronts, including the fact that Banana-Sam requires a special diet to survive and is older. Also, while squirrel monkeys are not large animals, they have sharp teeth and will bite if provoked.
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 (http://bit.ly/tmH6LN ) tracking the alleged whereabouts of Banana Sam.
The zoo said it was not involved with the account, and would not comment on it.
Anyone with information regarding Banana-Sam's whereabouts is asked to contact the San Francisco Police Department at (415) 553-8090.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.