Monkey moving to city zoo following escape from wildlife park

A monkey which spent five days roaming the Highlands after escaping from a wildlife park is being moved to a city zoo to give him a fresh start.

Honshu the Japanese macaque found a way out of his enclosure at Highland Wildlife Park near Kingussie in January and was caught days later after he was found eating from a bird feeder in a garden.

Keepers said it would have been very difficult to reintroduce him to his wider family after his time away and he is of the age when macaques generally disperse or move further afield.

Seven-year-old Honshu is instead being moved to Edinburgh Zoo with three males from his group to start a new “mini troop”.

He enjoyed a breakfast featuring his favourite Yorkshire pudding before setting off on the journey on Thursday.

Darren McGarry, head of living collections at Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which operates the zoo and wildlife park, said: “Primate group dynamics can be very complex, especially in a situation like this where an individual is separated from the troop for an extended period of time.

“Honshu is also of the age when macaques disperse or move away, so it would have been very difficult to reintroduce him to his wider family.

“Instead, we want to create a new mini-troop for him, comprised of three other male macaques of similar age – just like with our giraffes.

“Thankfully they have settled in well together at the park and are now being moved to their new home at the zoo.”

A major search, which included the use of a drone, was launched after Honshu escaped from the wildlife park on January 28.

The macaque was found in a garden in the nearby village of Kincraig on February 1 and was shot with a tranquilliser dart before being taken back to the park and checked over by vets.

It is thought the monkey, nicknamed Kingussie Kong by locals, may have been tempted by Yorkshire pudding which had been left on the bird table overnight and was all gone in the morning, according to reports.

RZSS chief executive David Field said Honshu’s last breakfast at Highland Wildlife Park included Yorkshire pudding, telling the BBC “that’s what he likes so why not”.

Honshu in wild
Honshu spent several days in the wild following his escape from Highland Wildlife Park last month (BH Wildlife Consultancy/PA)

He told BBC Radio Scotland Honshu has been doing well since his adventure but the time is right for him to move on.

He said: “He is actually great, he has formed a real bond with his peer group, he is probably the kind of benign ruler of them all, he is a bit of the boss, but he’s doing really well, he’s a beautiful, beautiful monkey and we’re really looking forward to having him down here in Edinburgh.”

Mr Field said Honshu was being a “little bit disruptive” at the wildlife park after his time away and was trying to take on the adult males.

He added: “It’s perfectly natural that at his age he would want to start moving on to find different groups, to try and take over groups, so it’s a bit like boys in the playground to be perfectly honest, he needs to move on and we have the perfect opportunity to have him here in Edinburgh.”

The monkeys will stay indoors at Edinburgh Zoo for the first few days before exploring the outdoor area of their new enclosure, opposite the zoo’s red river hogs.

Keith Gilchrist, living collections operations manager at Highland Wildlife Park, said: “We were amazed by the level of interest in Honshu’s escape from across the globe but our only priority throughout the process was to secure his safe return.

“I’m glad to say that thanks largely to the expertise of the team involved in his recapture, as well as a groundswell of support from the local community, we were able to do just that. Now it’s time for Honshu’s next chapter.”