New Zealander John Casford probably entered the monkey enclosure at Wellington Zoo "as high as a kite" with an eye on capturing one of the zoo's adorable squirrel monkeys and taking it home to his girlfriend. What happened after that is unclear. When zookeepers arrived the next morning, they found 23-year-old Casford with "a broken leg, two fractured teeth, a sprained ankle, and bruises on [his] back."
To gain entry to the monkey exhibit, Casford first "bypassed an unsecured gate [and] broke through two padlocks." He later told zookeepers that the worst of his injuries — the broken leg — had happened while he was jumping over the border fence, but that the rest were all thanks to the monkeys, who were NOT as eager to come with him as he'd hoped.
Wellington District Court judge Bill Hastings summed up the situation pretty well during Casford's sentencing hearing:
I don't know what happened in the squirrel monkey enclosure. The squirrel monkeys know. You say you couldn't find them and I don't speak squirrel [monkey]. What I know is that by daybreak all the monkeys were distressed, two of them were injured, and you had a broken leg, two fractured teeth, a sprained ankle, and bruises on your back.
Casford was sentenced to two years and seven months in prison, though his "monkeying around" wasn't the only reason for his conviction. The New Zealand Herald reported that he was already wanted by police for a series of unrelated crimes, including "an unprovoked assault on a man waiting at traffic lights, an alcohol-fueled attack at a convenience store, and assaults on a Wellington City Council community safety officer and a night shelter resident who refused to hand over cigarettes."
Judge Hastings also pointed out that if Casford had managed to capture one of the monkeys, he would have put the animal in great danger by removing it from its habitat, and may have also inadvertently caused a biohazard by bringing the wild animal into public.
Squirrel monkeys are an endangered species, beloved by zoo-goers everywhere for their diminutive stature and adorable features. With a maximum weight of 1,100 grams, the species holds the distinction for having "the largest brain-to-body mass ratio of all the primates."
Casford probably wouldn't have been equipped to properly care for one. Twitter had some big opinions about The Great Monkey Robbery:
At least Casford will have a good story to tell his prison mates!