Police are desperately scouring France after an “outrageous” theft saw 17 rare monkeys disappear from a zoo over the weekend.
Officers believe that the seven golden lion tamarins and 10 sliver marmosets, all belonging to the Brazilian government, were stolen by “experts” from the Beauval Zoo, 120 miles from Paris.
The thieves cut through glass windows, evading security cameras and extra night patrols, to make off with the prize monkeys – which can be worth as much as $10,000 each.
"No idea why they were taken. It's an outrageous theft. These are extremely fragile animals that need specific care," said zoo director Rodolphe Debord.
Zoo authorities expressed their concern over the “extremely rare, threatened monkeys,” one of which requires medical attention from an injury, and which all require a specific diet.
"These thieves knew exactly what monkeys they wanted to steal," he said. "There are two possibilities. Either a collector or the black market for new types of pets," he said.
Last year five rare tamarind monkeys were stolen from Blackpool zoo, in a raid that police believed was the work of criminals who deal in “prestige pets” on the black market.
There has been an increase in smuggling the rare monkeys, listed as critically endangered, since 2011, according to France-based environmental association Robin des Bois.
Additional reporting by ReutersReuse content