Monkey Killed At Idaho Zoo; Police Arrest First Suspect

By IScience Times Staff Reporter on November 20, 2012 1:38 PM EST

A Patas Monkey
A Patas Monkey (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

The monkey killed on Saturday by blows to the head and neck may have been the victim of a man with previous drug arrests.

Police have arrested one of two suspects in the brutal monkey killing at an Idaho Zoo on Saturday. Authorities were called to the zoo in Boise at 4:30 a.m. by a security guard who said two men who'd been lurking around the primate exhibit had fled the scene.

Michael J. Watkins, 22, of Weiser was charged Monday on felony burglary and grand theft after an unidentified citizen recognized the hat found in the monkey's enclosure. Boise Police Chief Michael Masterson said that Watkins went to a hospital for injuries to his upper torso shortly after the monkey was killed. But the story he gave the hospital "did not seem to mesh up with the injuries," Masterson said.

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Zoo Director Steve Burns says his staff has been devastated since Saturday. Crime Stoppers offered up to $1,000 for information leading to an arrest. And the police were "angered and outraged over this senseless crime," Masterson said. "The loss of this patas monkey has touched many lives, including our officers and investigators."

In the absence of surveillance cameras, the Idaho zoo has had to rely on security guards. Early Saturday morning, Burns heard a groan and found the monkey injured. Though they were able to transport the monkey to the zoo's animal hospital while still alive, the blunt-force trauma wound proved too severe to treat.

Watkins has been in trouble with the law before for drug-related activity, but it's unclear whether Watkins was under the influence of drugs or alcohol when he broke into the zoo.

"I've been here for 15 years, and I don't remember any cases where we've had a visitor intentionally or even accidentally injure an animal," Burns said. "People in Boise are usually pretty respectful. We were just saying the other day that we can't even remember the last time that someone was found inside the zoo after hours. The security guards do a really good job."

Burns said that the crime has once again made him think about how the patas monkeys are housed at the zoo. "That primate house was built back in the 1960s," he said, "and it's just time to update it and provide the animals with more space and things like that."

The zoo isn't prepared to make any big changes yet. But Burns is committed to following through on plans to expand or remodel the monkeys' habitat. "We're going to grieve for the animal and make sure the community's OK," he told reporters. "But we're going to move on with the plans that we have and continue to take care of the animals. Boise's a really nice place to live, and usually this kind of stuff doesn't happen in Boise."

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