[monkeywire] Man Arrested In Connection With Idaho Zoo Monkey Death

Joe Garden joegarden at yahoo.com
Tue Nov 20 09:09:07 EST 2012


Man arrested after death of monkey at Idaho zoo

BOISE, Idaho (AP) — Police have arrested one of two men who
they believe broke into an Idaho zoo the night a monkey there died from
blunt-force trauma, but questions remain about how and why the animal was
Michael J.
Watkins, 22, of Weiser was arrested Monday in Washington County on
felony burglary and grand theft charges.
A tip from a citizen led police to Watkins after identifying a hat found in the monkey's
enclosure as similar to one Watkins was wearing the night two intruders were
spotted at Zoo Boise. A security guard frightened away the intruders, then
discovered the gravely injured patas monkey,
which died a short time later.
Masterson said at a news conference
Monday evening that Watkins sought care at a hospital for injuries to his upper
torso sometime after the early Saturday incident. The story he gave to hospital
staff "did not seem to mesh up with the injuries," Masterson said.
The monkey's death has left zoo workers shocked and devastated, zoo director Steve Burns said. The Crime Stoppers organization
offered an award of up to $1,000 for information leading to the culprits'
Investigators had not had a chance
to question Watkins extensively and have not revealed whether they think the
zoo break-in was a prank that turned violent or something done with more
sinister intent. But the police department and community are "angered and
outraged over this senseless crime," Masterson said.
"The loss of this patas monkey
has touched many lives, including our officers and investigators," he
The zoo doesn't have surveillance
video. Instead, security guards patrol the grounds when the zoo is closed.
Burns said the guard who discovered
the crime spotted one intruder inside the zoo and one outside the perimeter
fence near the primate exhibit. Both men fled, with one running into the
interior of the zoo.
Investigators believe Watkins is
the man who was seen inside the fence.
Burns and police were searching the
grounds when Burns heard a groan and found the injured monkey outside its
exhibit, near the fence surrounding the zoo. They were able to get the animal
into a crate and to the zoo's animal hospital, but the monkey died of
blunt-force trauma to its head and neck just a few minutes later.
An inventory showed none of the
other animals was missing or harmed.
Police say Watkins was visiting
Boise with friends over the weekend from his home in Weiser, an agricultural
town about 60 miles away near the Oregon-Idaho border.
Court records show Watkins has been
in trouble with the law before, including drug arrests. Police said they do not
know whether Watkins may have been under the influence of alcohol or drugs at
the time of the break-in.
Officers have spoken with the other
man spotted outside the zoo but do not expect charges to be filed against him,
Masterson said.
Crimes at the zoo are rare, Burns
"I've been here for 15 years,
and I don't remember any cases where we've had a visitor intentionally or even
accidentally injure an animal," Burns said. "People in Boise are
usually pretty respectful. We were just saying the other day that we can't even
remember the last time that someone was found inside the zoo after hours. The
security guards do a really good job."
Burns said it will take a few weeks
before he can decide if the remaining patas monkey will be sent to another zoo
or if another patas monkey will be brought in as a companion. The animals are
social and need to be around members of their own species.
The crime may have raised interest
in the patas monkeys. A donation for the remaining patas monkey under the zoo's
adopt-an-animal program came in over the weekend, Burns said.
The monkey exhibit remains open to
the public, although zoo workers were keeping some of the larger garage-sized
doors to the exhibit closed to keep down noise, and keepers were giving the
remaining patas monkey a little more attention, Burns said. The zoo kicked off
a fundraiser to build a new exhibit house for the primates in September.
"That primate house was built
back in the 1960s and it's just time to update it and provide the animals with
more space and things like that," he said.
For now, he said, zoo workers are
just focusing on caring for the remaining 300 animals at the zoo.
"We're going to grieve for the
animal and make sure the community's OK. But we're going to move on with the
plans that we have and continue to take care of the animals. Boise's a really
nice place to live, and usually this kind of stuff doesn't happen in
Boise," he said.

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