Banana-Sam to return to SF zoo exhibit soon

(San Francisco Zoo)

January 1, 2012 2:38:35 PM PST
A squirrel monkey that went missing from the San Francisco Zoo on Friday checked out healthy upon his recovery Saturday.

San Francisco Zoo officials tweeted Saturday evening that Banana-Sam, a 17-year-old squirrel monkey, was "resting now but will be back on exhibit soon."

Banana-Sam was discovered missing Friday morning after zoo officials found vandals has cut a pair of holes in the mesh fencing of the exhibit. The monkey was initially reported to be stolen from the zoo.

The monkey was recovered Saturday by a man who said he saw Banana-Sam at Stern Grove Park, about three miles from the zoo. The man said he coaxed the monkey into his backpack and then called police, who recovered the animal.

Zoo officials confirmed the monkey was Banana-Sam and said the animal appeared to be healthy, although he was hungry, thirsty and trembling.

It's unclear if the passerby will claim the $5,000 reward being offered by the zoo for the monkey's safe return. Zoo officials say they're grateful for the happy ending but say a monkey wouldn't be easily coaxed into a backpack.

"A monkey would be placed into a backpack forcibly," Jill Andrews with the zoo said.

Zoo officials had been concerned about Banana-Sam during his disappearance as monkeys of that age are considered senior and squirrel monkeys in general require special diets. Officials also said squirrel monkeys like Banana-Sam have sharp teeth and will bite if provoked.

The zoo hasn't announced a specific date for Banana-Sam's return to the squirrel monkey exhibit. Zoo officials want to make sure Banana-Sam adjusts well to his return home, and it will take some time for repairs to be finished to the squirrel monkey exhibit that was damaged by the vandalism.

San Francisco police are still investigating the monkey's disappearance.

ABC7's Sergio Quintana contributed to this report.