Detectives are continuing to hunt for a baby monkey that was stolen from Blackpool Zoo – amid concerns time is running out for it to be found safe and well.
The critically endangered cotton-top tamarin was among five monkeys stolen last week, but police believe national media coverage on Friday scared the thieves into abandoning four of them that evening.
Two female adult cotton-top tamarins and four male emperor tamarins were found in a cardboard box in Yorkshire – but the baby was not with them.
The zoo has said it is not speculating on the condition of the baby but privately there are concerns for its welfare.
Andy McWilliam, investigations officer for the National Wildlife Crime Unit, said: “The monkeys were found on Friday night following all the media coverage.
“I suspect somebody may have panicked and decided to drop them off.
“We are continuing our inquiries and we are trying to get to the bottom of this.”
It is understood the four monkeys, which have been returned to the zoo, were left distressed by the ordeal but they are not thought to have suffered any long-term ill effects.
Speaking when the animals first went missing, Jude Rothwell, marketing and PR coordinator at Blackpool Zoo, said: “They are very rare animals and they have very specific needs. The four-month-old baby is totally reliant on its mother.”
Police are still hoping to find the outstanding tamrin, which has now been separated from its mother for at least five days.
The monkeys were stolen during an overnight break-in at the zoo between April 29 and 30. The thieves cut a hole in a perimeter fence on Woodside Drive before unscrewing the locks from two enclosures.
Investigations are on-going. Anyone with information is asked to call police on 101.