Monkey tried to fight off kidnapper who went after its child, Kansas zoo suspects

An intruder likely stole a monkey from a zoo in Dodge City, Kansas — but not before the monkey’s father put up a fight, zookeepers suspect.

That struggle earlier this month left Vern, an older tufted capuchin monkey, with injuries that required surgery, the Wright Park Zoo said in a news release. His injuries appeared to be the result of “blunt force trauma in excess of what would occur from a fall,” officials said.

“Vern is very protective of the younger monkey and would not have let (his child) go without a fight,” head zookeeper Hannah Schroeder said in a statement. “Unfortunately, this suspected altercation resulted in a broken knee cap.”

Vern’s son, Pickett, was found on Sept. 3 just outside Dodge City. Veterinary staff gave Pickett “a clean bill of health to return to its enclosure,” zoo officials said.

But then zoo officials discovered that Vern was injured.

“We do not believe the little monkey, Pickett, found his way outside the enclosure on his own,” Dodge City Police Chief Drew Francis said in a statement. “Nor do we believe he traveled to where he was found on his own.”

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Vern underwent surgery Sept. 10 at Kansas State University, successfully repairing his broken bones, according to the zoo.

“Vern is recovering well but will have to spend the next 6-8 weeks away from his family while he recovers,” Schroeder said. “He is back at the zoo and will remain behind the scenes until his injuries are healed.”

Following Pickett’s disappearance, zoo officials said they would be beefing up security.

Authorities said they’re still investigating the suspected monkey kidnapping.

“I doubt the culprit has the decency to come forward,” Francis said. “I also suspect someone may know who committed this act or have an idea who would do this. If that’s you, we would greatly appreciate talking with you.”

Zoo officials wrote on Facebook that they “will be installing cameras shortly.”

In an update on Vern’s condition on Sept. 18, zoo officials said that “veterinarians are very happy with his progress, though he still has a long road ahead of him. Vern will have to remain separated from the troop for a few more weeks while the bones heal.”

It sounds like he’s also made new friends.

“In the meantime he’s growing accustomed to his temporary neighbors, Lucius and Narcissa the Porcupines, and enjoying a lot of enrichment from his keepers,” zoo officials said.

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Jared Gilmour is a McClatchy national reporter based in San Francisco. He covers everything from health and science to politics and crime. He studied journalism at Northwestern University and grew up in North Dakota.