An international hunt is on to find five monkeys stolen from Blackpool Zoo during a break-in.
Police say it is likely the animals were stolen to order and specifically targeted during a carefully planned raid.
Three critically endangered cotton-top tamarin monkeys – two adult females and a baby – were stolen along with two male emperor tamarins during the overnight break-in.
Detectives believe at some point on Tuesday night or early Wednesday morning the thieves cut a hole in the perimeter fence of the zoo, on Woodside Drive, before approaching two separate monkey enclosures.
They then removed the locks and took the monkeys.
Lancashire Police has enlisted the help of the National Wildlife Crime Unit to help trace the monkeys and law enforcement teams across the continent have been notified.
PC Steve Higgs, of Blackpool Police, said: “It would appear from the way that these thieves have broken into the zoo that this was a planned and premeditated crime and that the offenders knew what they were looking for and knew that the monkeys would be in the enclosures.
“I would appeal for anyone who has any information or any witnesses who saw anything suspicious on Tuesday evening or Wednesday morning to get in touch. It may be that there were dog walkers around at that time who may have seen people acting suspiciously.
“I would also appeal to anyone who may be offered these animals for sale to contact the police.”
Darren Webster, zoo director, said: “We are extremely saddened by the theft of these monkeys and it is imperative they receive the correct care in order to survive.
“All the animals were born here at Blackpool Zoo and are part of our zoo family, so I would like to urge anyone with any information to contact the police.”
Andy McWilliam, Investigations Officer at the National Wildlife Crime Unit, added: “There is definitely a market for these monkeys and we are making enquiries across Europe in a bid to try and trace them.”
Anyone with information is asked to contact police on 101.