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East Japan zoo luring back escaped monkeys by leaving food in their empty cage

Japanese macaque monkeys that escaped their enclosure through a hole are seen returning to it for food and water, at Takagoyama zoo in Futtsu, Chiba Prefecture, on June 11, 2020. (Mainichi/Shigeharu Asami)

FUTTSU, Chiba -- A zoo in eastern Japan is continuing to try and recapture some 70 Japanese macaque monkeys that escaped from a temporary enclosure that appeared to have been intentionally tampered with by leaving it open for them to come back.

The monkeys escaped from a large cage at Takagoyama zoo in the Chiba Prefecture city of Futtsu at some time before the morning of June 10. A hole that appears to have been made by a person was found at the metal-fenced enclosure, which in all measures about 3 meters high and 90 meters around.

The fugitive monkeys have been spotted in the mountains around the zoo, among other areas. As part of its attempts to get them back in captivity, the park is leaving the cage doors open so that they can collect the animals when they come back to get food.

Founded originally as a private venture in 1959, Takagoyama zoo is now managed by the Futtsu Municipal Government, and the care of its animals is entrusted to a local tourism association. The park measures about 6,800 square meters, and is surrounded by fences. The monkeys were allowed to roam more freely, but the park's fences were brought down by Typhoon Faxai in 2019, and about 100 monkeys escaped into the wild.

Between January and February this year a majority of the monkeys had been found, and the zoo had just started work to rebuild the enclosure. Until now, there had been no issues with taking care of the monkeys, and a city official expressed their frustration, saying, "We have no clue (why they escaped in June). We'd finally finished catching them."

At times, the monkeys come down from the mountains and, if they find a zoo attendant, approach them and receive food. For the time being, workers are putting sweet potatoes, soybeans and other food inside the cage to get the monkeys used to eating in the enclosure again before catching them. There have yet to be any reports of damage to farming or of incidents involving people, but the city government is warning people not to approach the monkeys.

(Japanese original by Shigeharu Asami, Kisarazu Local Bureau)

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