Banana-Sam OK, but not ready to go back on display

(San Francisco Zoo)

January 2, 2012 7:10:42 PM PST
Banana-Sam, the squirrel monkey stolen from the San Francisco Zoo last week is back home, but he's not being displayed to the public just yet. Zoo keepers say he's in good shape, but there are a lot of questions about where he's been.

Zoo staff gave Banana-Sam a full physical exam this weekend. He's going to remain in quarantine for several days as a precaution, but he will be getting a friend to hang around with -- another monkey to keep him company.

He's doing great; he's healthy, alert, eating well, pooping well; he looks good," Assistant Curator of Primates Jill Andrews said.

The squirrel monkey exhibit remained closed Monday, prompting continued curiosity by visitors about Banana-Sam and his return.

"We did follow the story in both the local and the national news, and I don't know if Banana-Sam is coming out or not, but I guess he is back and safe," zoo visitor Andrew Bley said.

The rest of Banana-Sam's squirrel monkey friends will likely be returned to their display habitat on Tuesday. Crews are just finishing repairs after his theft last week.

"The heaters were disabled and the mesh on the back of the enclosure was cut into, so we have repaired that," Andrews said.

The 17-year-old monkey was returned to the zoo New Year's Eve. Police say they were alerted by a man who says he was walking through Stern Grove Saturday evening and noticed the monkey. He said he coaxed the monkey into a backpack and then called police.

The story of his return is just as much a curiosity for zoo visitors as his abduction.

"Who would have thought that he would even go in a backpack? He must have been really scared, or something," zoo visitor Christine Swenson said.

Banana-Sam seems to be readjusting to being back home, but it may be some time before he is back on display in the squirrel monkey exhibit.

"We do need to observe him a little bit longer to make sure that he hasn't been exposed to anything that could be dangerous or could make him sick, or that he could pass along to our other monkeys," Andrews said.

When asked this weekend if the man who returned Banana-Sam is a person of interest in his theft, police said that investigation remains open so all options are open. Monday, a police spokesperson said the status of their investigation is unchanged. They have not released the name of the man who returned the monkey, nor has any information been released on a $5,000 reward that was advertised if Banana-Sam was returned safely.