POLICE are hunting a thief who stole two tiny young monkeys – including a baby aged 11 weeks – from a home in the Highlands.
They were taken from an external enclosure in a garden in Nairn, near Inverness. The marmoset monkeys are worth more than £1,000 to collectors.
Police want to trace a man, believed to be in his twenties, who had visited the house in the seaside town’s Balmakeith Drive.
The theft, on Saturday, had closely followed an unknown man arriving at the property offering to carry out gutter cleaning services, then expressing an interest in buyng the monkeys.
A Police Scotland spokeswoman said: “We don’t know if it was preplanned, but our focus is on the man who had visited the house earlier.
“He certainly made an effort to purchase the monkeys, and then they were stolen.”
The monkeys were aged 12 months and 11 weeks respectively, with the older one being approximately 8in in height with distinctive white fur markings on the tips of the ears, and the younger monkey approximately 3in in height, darker in colour with no white markings.
Animal experts say that although bred as domestic pets in places, the monkeys should be considered wild animals who require specialist care and feeding.
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The police spokeswoman added: “The older monkey can and will be aggressive if handled and this may result in scratches or serious bites occurring.”
The Scottish SPCA are opposed to people owning marmoset monkeys as pets.
Deputy chief superintendent Tom Gatherer advised anyone who might come across the monkeys not to handle them.
He said: “There are clear welfare concerns for these animals if the thief does not know or understand their needs. We would advise anyone who comes across the monkeys to contact police.
“We hope they will soon be returned safely.”
The common marmoset is a “very different” type of monkey, often called the cotton-eared marmoset. The males can weigh up to one pound and the females even less. Males and females often look very similar, which is not common for most species of monkeys.
They are found in north-eastern and southern parts of Brazil.
Marmosets are opportunistic and will move into new territories when they have a chance to do so. This may account for why they have been able to survive with their environment changes.
They may be found along the edges of forests or all the way into it. They are able to jump long distances and move quickly. They have also been found in some cities, such as Rio de Janeiro and Buenos Aires.
The common marmoset is a social animal and creates groups that can be very large.
The SSPCA advises members of the public if you come across the monkeys not to handle them and to contact them in the first instance on 03000 999 999
Police are appealing for anyone with information as to the whereabouts of these animals or those responsible for their disappearance to contact them urgently on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
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