ROANOKE, Va. – A Japanese monkey aptly named Oops bolted from the Roanoke city zoo, sparking a park-wide shutdown as staff searched the surrounding forest where they could hear her in the trees.
The 20-pound Japanese macaque and her family were being moved from their holding cells to the exhibit for routine feeding and cleaning when she got away Sunday morning, said David Jobe, education curator at Mill Mountain Zoo. She was still on the run Monday morning.
"We hope that because they're active in the daytime, she slept last night and woke up this morning hungry," Jobe said. "We hope to take advantage of a hungry monkey."
At 11, Oops is the youngest of four so-called snow monkeys at the zoo. The furry, light brown monkey with the red face got her named because the others were not supposed to reproduce.
Jobe said he believes she is staying in the forest so she can be in earshot of her family. It's her first trip out of the zoo, and while the staff hadn't seen her since Sunday morning, they heard her throughout the day Sunday as they searched in the forest that surrounds the zoo, he said.
"Part of our concern for her is that it's the first time she's ever been anywhere else and we're sure she's frightened," Jobe said.
The zoo, which sits on a mountain inside a Roanoke city park, had never had an escape from its grounds in its 55 years until Sunday, Jobe said. At some point while the monkeys were being shifted, either a zoo employee made a mistake or a piece of equipment malfunctioned, Jobe said.
Both the zoo and park were closed on of the busiest weekends of the year for the search. About 75,000 people usually visit the zoo each year.
"Hopefully it will work to our advantage that she escaped alone," Jobe said, adding that if she were with another monkey they would be more apt to explore.
He urged anyone who spots the macaque to call police and not try to capture her because she could be dangerous if she feels threatened. Japanese macaques, native to Japan, are typically 2 to 4 feet long and have relatively short tails.