Was it a longing for freedom, for friends or for snacks that pushed the monkey to make his daring getaway?
Only the Japanese macaque himself knows for sure. He has evaded the hands of animal keepers who have been chasing him since Sunday, when he escaped from an enclosure in the Highland Wildlife Park in Kingussie, Scotland, and fled into the Scottish highlands.
Park officials have brought in thermal drones to help them search for the animal and have asked residents to report sightings.
The monkey’s life on the lam has brought a whirlwind of media attention to the relatively remote communities of Kingussie and Kincraig (combined population: about 1,500 humans). Amused residents, who have given the animal the nickname “Kingussie Kong,” have found themselves invested in its fate, and journalists have followed animal keepers as they have swept the hills.
“There’s been a daily epic monkey hunt going on in this village in the last couple of days,” said Carl Nagle, of Kincraig, who added that an animal on the loose was “a first” for the usually quiet village. “You would think we were chasing an international fugitive instead of an innocent monkey.”
On Sunday, after hearing of the breakout, Mr. Nagle went downstairs and was greeted with a surreal sight: There he was, the monkey of the hour, nibbling nuts underneath a bird feeder in Mr. Nagle’s backyard.
“It looked at me; I looked at him,” he said on Tuesday. He described the monkey’s expression as “sheepish.”
“He knew he wasn’t where he was supposed to be,” Mr. Nagle said. It was, he said, “shocking and wonderful all at once.”
Animal keepers soon showed up, and the monkey scampered off in the direction of the trees, he said. The monkey was sighted again on Tuesday, and park authorities said they were patrolling the local area and had enlisted the help of a local rescue service.
The Japanese macaque, also known as the snow monkey, is an intelligent species of primate native to Japan and was once hunted for food, before protections helped the population recover. The animal was not “presumed dangerous” to humans and pets, but authorities warned the public not to approach him. “We’re hopeful that the monkey will return to the park if he can’t find food elsewhere,” the charity that runs the wildlife park said in a statement.
The monkey had been part of a troop of more than 30 animals at Highland Wildlife Park. Keith Gilchrist, an operations manager for the park, said that he might have been caught up in breeding season tensions. “Rather than get into a fight, it seems this one has just gone for it and got past the enclosure perimeter fence,” he told the BBC.
Mr. Nagle hopes the monkey enjoys his freedom before returning home.
“Everybody is rooting for this monkey,” he said. “He must be having a ball living his best life.”