Theft of 15 rare monkeys from Scottish zoo puzzles police

Police are investigating the theft of 15 rare monkeys worth more than £10,000 from a zoo, it emerged yesterday.

The primates - of three undisclosed breeds, one of which is particularly rare in the UK - were stolen from Oban Zoological World sometime between 9.45pm on Tuesday and 8am yesterday.

Strathclyde Police believe the Argyll zoo, which specialises in breeding endangered species from threatened environments, was targeted by thieves with specialised knowledge.

The different breeds of monkeys were in separate enclosures within the park. "There are other breeds in the zoo, but they have not been touched," said Detective Constable Emma Trantor of Oban Police, who is leading the investigation.

"We really can't say much just now, other than we think more than one person must have been involved to get them all together.

"They are small breeds, so we can't rule out a car being used but a vehicle of some sort was certainly used."

She added: "The owners are very upset. They've built up quite a large primate collection over a number of years."

The theft is the first of its kind from the zoo, based at Ariogan Cottage, Upper Soroba.

Oban Zoological World, which has been open to the public since May 2001, has been involved with breeding rare breeds for many years.

Its collection of primates includes cotton-top tamarins, red handed tamarins, red bellied tamarins, black eared marmosets, guides monkeys, Geoffreys monkeys, squirrel monkeys, pygmy marmosets and common marmosets.

The park also features other animals, including reptiles, otters and tortoises and has been enjoying the tourist season.

The zoo is run by Gordon Rollinson, who has more than two decades of experience of keeping exotic animals. Mr Rollinson declined to comment about the theft.