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Endangered monkey stolen from Leipzig Zoo in Germany

Wesley Dockery
April 2, 2024

A lion-tailed macaque, an endangered species, has gone missing after unidentified people broke into its enclosure. Security measures have been ramped up at the zoo, and police have launched an investigation.

A undated photo of the missing monkey, "Ruma," at the Leipzig Zoo
Lion-tailed macaques are legally protected in their home country, IndiaImage: Zoo Leipzig/dpa/picture alliance

The Leipzig Zoo in eastern Germany said Tuesday that one of its monkeys had been stolen from its enclosure. 

'Clear signs of a violent break-in'

Employees at Leipzig Zoo discovered that the lion-tailed macaque was missing on Easter Sunday while inspecting the primate enclosures.

The zoo determined that there were "clear signs of a violent break-in" from unidentified individuals and believed that traps were used to steal the animal.  

The female macaque, Ruma, is 15 years old. Lion-tailed macaques are considered an endangered species. They are known for the tip of their tails, which is "tufted" like that of a lion.   

Another 12-year-old male macaque living in the same enclosure was still there and seemed unharmed by the break-in.

However, a zoo spokesperson told the German Bild newspaper that the male macaque, Yenur, misses his partner as the monkeys have a social disposition. The lion-tailed macaque uses 17 different vocal calls and body language to convey messages. 

A photo of a lion-tailed macaque at the Leipzig Zoo
Lion-tailed macaques can live into their 30s in captivity, but they have a shorter life span in the wildImage: Michael Schöne/Zoonar/picture alliance

Saxony police launch probe into monkey business

German police in the state of Saxony, where the Leipzig Zoo is located, have launched an investigation into the theftand have put out a call for witnesses. Security measures at the zoo have also been ramped up in response to the theft. 

Leipzig Zoo Director Jörg Junhold called the theft of the macaque "bad news."

"We don't know the motive behind the theft, but we are extremely concerned about the welfare of the middle-aged animal, whose species-appropriate keeping and care requires specialist knowledge, and we very much hope that the animal will be recovered or returned unharmed," Junhold said.   

Lion-tailed macaques are indigenous to a mountain range in southern India called the Western Ghats. Only a few thousand are estimated to be left in the wild and their habitats are being destroyed due to deforestation.  

Macaques are also at risk from poaching due to their meat and fur. The species are sometimes sought after by hunters for "medicinal" purposes.

Material from German news agency dpa contributed to this story

Edited by: Louis Oelofse