Macaque Blocked: Escaped Monkeys Castrated After Capture
The past week has been harrowing for two Barbary macaques in Germany. They fled their enclosure to escape abuse at the hands of a jealous alpha male, only to be caught and promptly castrated.
Set on a lake in the hinterlands of Thuringia in eastern Germany, the Straussberg Adventure Park is known for its "Monkey Forest," where around 80 apes live in a landscaped open sanctuary. But for three young Barbary macaques known by the names of Fred, Richard and Paul, the scenic surroundings recently turned into an abject hell.
About a week ago, the three monkeys fled the enclosure, scaling a 2.5-meter (8.2-foot) electric fence, to get away from Cornelius, the abusive resident alpha male. Fred and Richard were caught soon after and immediately castrated. Now only four-year-old Paul remains on the loose.
The problem arose from the imbalanced gender ratio of the Barbary macaque community in the animal park, says Brigitte Dietzel, who runs the facility with her son Silvio. Out of 28 apes, 20 are males, which can lead to trouble in the 1.5-hectar (3.7-acre) enclosure. To make matters worse, the 17-year-old alpha, Cornelius, is known to be moody, jealous and power hungry.
"We don't know if the younger monkeys did something to the females to make Cornelius jealous, or if he just felt threatened, but he started beating on them, and soon there was a lot of stress among the males," said Dietzel. Fred, Paul and Richard then apparently fled out of fear. "Before this we've had no major problems," she added, "but the ratio has never been this extreme."
Six-year-old Richard, who at 16 kilos (35 pounds) is rather sluggish and slow, was caught the very next day by Silvio Dietzel. The zookeeper located Fred five days later and shot him out of a poplar tree with a stun gun some four kilometers away from the sanctuary.
Cornelius' Evil Plan?
A half hour after the monkeys were apprehended, they were forced to part with their testicles. Was it a penalty for their brash escape?
"No, it was not a punishment!" insists Brigitte Dietzel. "It's just a measure to calm them down. Without as many hormones, they are much calmer and they don't have as many problems with the other males." The operation, she adds, is done by a veterinarian under anesthesia and is not painful for the monkeys. She says they are recovering happily and "do not seem depressed" about their fates.
Meanwhile, Paul and his endangered anatomy remain at large in the miles of forest surrounding the monkey park. "The problem is that he has plenty to eat," says Dietzel. "He eats apples, wild berries, and he's very good at hiding."
Every day a search party goes out looking for Paul, but he has thus far managed to avert capture. "Yesterday we got a call that someone had spotted him," said Dietzel. "But by the time we got there, he was gone."
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