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Jacqueline Wake Young: Highland monkey escape sends everyone nuts

News of a Japanese macaque going on the run from Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore becomes the story of the week with news spreading around the world.

The escaped monkey spotted in a garden. Image: DCT.
The escaped monkey spotted in a garden. Image: DCT.

The wild and windy weather may have tried to do its worst but it took an escaped monkey to bring the nation to a standstill.

I couldn’t push the car door open on Wednesday because the gusts were so strong and eventually I had to drive 50 yards to a more sheltered spot just so I could get out of the driving seat.

At the time, all I could think about was that little Japanese macaque being exposed to the elements in the Highlands.

Escaped monkey in the Highlands grabs everyone’s attention

Suffice to say, the escape has kept everyone busy in the office, whether that’s interviewing zookeepers, researching the breed or, ahem, putting out tasty picnics in the hope of spotting the runaway in the back garden.

Alright, so that last one had nothing to do with work but what can I say? We’ve all gone bananas over this story.

And it’s not just us. Reports of the creature’s escape from the Highland Wildlife Park near Aviemore on Sunday mobilised national and international news outlets and television crews with reporters, photographers and drones all involved.

Cairngorm Mountain rescue team members tried to pick up a thermal heat image of the missing monkey using their specialist drone. Image: Peter Jolly/Shutterstock.

The story was reported by news desks as far away as The New York Times and it was even the subject of its quote of the day on Wednesday.

“The monkey is living ‘his best life’ on the run in the Scottish Highlands,” ran the paraphrased quote from local resident Carl Nagle of Kincraig.

On the same day it was reported that the Make America Great Again contingent had said Taylor Swift “is a secret agent of the Pentagon” and Elon Musk had said people would soon “be able to control a phone or computer just by thinking”.

So it wasn’t like no-one else had said anything interesting that day, it was just that our little Highland snow monkey had managed to upstage everyone, everywhere.

Taylor Swift performing in the Eras tour as a political brouhaha brews. Image: AP Photo/Natacha Pisarenko.

Epic hunt for Honshu

The Press and Journal told how Mr Nagle had woken up to his daughter shouting: “Dad, there’s a monkey on the street!”

He said: “I was just having a chilled Sunday morning. We went outside and there it was in the garden. It was amazing.

“A snow monkey sitting next to my fence eating nuts that have fallen from my bird feeders.”

Mr Nagle likened the “epic monkey hunt” to an international “search for a fugitive”, such was the fuss it generated – and he had a point.

Portraits of the friends of the missing Japanese macaque monkey (snow monkey) at Highland Wildlife Park. Image: Jason Hedges.

While the P&J’s Christopher Donnan made a graphic of sightings and Chris Cromar interviewed a professor about primates’ behaviour, Lauren Robertson put out a peeled banana, chilli and tortilla chips for the wee fella.

Like I say, some of us became more involved than others in the monkey mania.

Journalist Michelle Henderson made a handy timeline so we could keep up with all the monkey movements.

Screen grab from drone footage of the Japanese macaque on the run. Image: BH Wildlife Consultancy/PA Wire.

‘Kingussie Kong’ search kept Jacqueline occupied

I was so distracted by the story my own timeline went something like this:

Monday: Talked about the possibility of a new multi-million-pound holiday park at Aberdeen Beach then spent 10 minutes discussing what would be good to put in a monkey picnic.

Tuesday: Read with interest the story about an earthquake hitting the Isle of Mull. Typed “Japanese macaque diet” into Google.

Wednesday: Marvelled at the heroism of Leona Lowe who rescued a stranded cuckoo ray on Aberdeen Beach by picking it up in her jumper and returning it to the sea. Checked to see if ‘Kingussie Kong’ had returned to the park.

Leona Lowe and her dog Casper found a Cuckoo ray on Aberdeen beach.
The Cuckoo ray rescued off Aberdeen beach. Image: Leona Lowe.

The monkey hadn’t returned but he was getting closer so that was good news. On the downside, I felt embarrassed for him when reports suggested he had been fleeing from a fight.

I wondered if, when he did return, he’d turn government informant, get his own enclosure and spend his days playing snooker with a couple of federal agents.

Typed “Japanese macaque friendship groups” into Google.

Thursday: Was reading about the £8,000 price tag for a nip of an 81-year-old Macallan purchased by a hotel in Inverurie when news came in that the monkey had been caught.

Friday: Wondered what on Earth I’m going to do with myself now there are no runaway zoo residents to keep me on my toes.

The Reach, which comes cradled in a three-hand sculpture. Image: 24 Keys.