Rare monkeys stolen from Kolkata Zoo rescued

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JUBILATION: Alipore Zoo employees celebrate the recovery of the rare monkeys on Saturday.
JUBILATION: Alipore Zoo employees celebrate the recovery of the rare monkeys on Saturday.

Special Correspondent

KOLKATA: Seven of the eight rare monkeys stolen from Kolkata Zoo three weeks ago have been tracked down by the Chhattisgarh police in Durg and are being brought back to the city over the weekend. One of the eight has died.Raju Das, who is holding additional charge of Kolkata Zoological Gardens, told The Hindu on Saturday that a team of officials from the zoo accompanied by police officers has left for Durg and would bring back the animals by Monday after examining them. “We will quarantine the animals for some time after which they will be back on display,” he said.

Kolkata Zoo was the only zoological garden in the country, other than Mysore Zoo, to have this exotic species of monkeys who are just about the size of a big country rat. The sensational theft had stirred up a storm which caught in its gust the then Director of the zoo, Subir Chowdhury, who was suspended within 24 hours of the incident even as investigations were launched to probe any administrative lapses.

The Police Superintendent of Durg, Deepanshu Kabra, said that one person, Rajesh Saikia from Guwahati in Assam in whose possession the animals were found, has been arrested and is being interrogated to find out whether he has any international links with an animal smuggling racket.

The animals were rescued from a place 44 km from Raipur, the Chhattisgarh capital.

Mr. Kabra said Rajesh had admitted that these were the monkeys stolen from Kolkata Zoo. He purportedly said he was asked by a friend to keep custody of the animals for some time.

The rescue operation succeeded after police officers posing as buyers tried to seal a deal for the seven monkeys for over Rs.10 lakh.

“We will provide full cooperation to the Kolkata police in the investigations,” said Mr. Kabra.

The common marmoset is an exotic species of monkeys from the tropical rain forests of Brazil. They are greyish brown, small-bodied and distinct because of their white ear tufts and a long banded tail. Weighing no more than 500 gm, they are less than 20 cm tall. Though the life span of these monkeys is no more than six to seven years, they breed in captivity and that is why the zoo had been able to maintain a healthy stock. The animals are much sought after for research purposes since they are genetically similar to human beings in certain aspects.

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