Zoo keepers tackle thieving monkeys
Published 07/04/2011 | 12:47
A troupe of pilfering primates are being taught to turn their backs on the fashion world after embarking on a crime wave.
London Zoo's gang of Bolivian squirrel monkeys have taken a shine to the sunglasses worn by visitors in the recent warm weather. Pinching with impunity, the quick-fingered monkeys have developed a habit of whipping sunglasses off the heads of startled visitors.
The shameless simians have now built up an impressive stash of designer shades including Ray-Bans and aviator sunglasses.
As a result, their keepers have had to dream up a course of corrective behaviour to stem the animals criminal tendencies. Staff have coated a selection of sunglasses with a bitter tasting apple substance. It is hoped the monkeys will find the taste so unpleasant that their stealing habits will come to an abrupt end.
Zoological Society of London (ZSL) keeper Kate Sanders said it was the youngest monkeys that posed the biggest problem.
She said: "The little one are very inquisitive, they are attracted to the shiny lenses on the sunglasses.
"Once they get hold of a pair they all race round the enclosure chasing the monkey with the glasses. They've grabbed around seven pairs so far.
"Hopefully this treatment with the bitter apple will work, we are planning to repeat it until they associate sunglasses with something that is unpleasant."
This is not the troupe's first brush with criminality, four years ago keepers also had to put the monkeys on a short mobile phone training programme - to discourage them from stealing phones.
Bolivian squirrel monkeys live in the rainforest and eat insects, fruit and seeds. ZSL London Zoo, along with other zoos in England, is involved in breeding programmes aimed at increasing numbers of the species.