Honshu, a seven-year-old male Japanese macaque, escaped from Highland Wildlife Park at Kincraig, near Aviemore, Scotland, on 28th January 2024, but after five days roaming in the Highlands, he was found, shot with a tranquilizer, and recaptured. Stephanie Bunyan, who lives near the zoo, spotted the monkey in her garden on the 1st of February and contacted the Royal Zoological Society of Scotland (RZSS), which owns the zoo. She told BBC Scotland News, “I saw a little, sad macaque just looking straight in the window at me. I don’t know if he wanted to come in or not.”

The search to recapture Honshu included patrols by RZSS staff and drones, including one fitted with thermal imaging equipment and operated by a Cairngorm Mountain Rescue Team.

The RZSS said the escapee may have been trying to avoid a fight with others in the group, something that wild monkeys can do, but captive monkeys are forced to stay in the same enclosures with all the other monkeys, contributing to the stressful live primates experience in captivity. As it is now the breeding season, tensions could be high among the troops. Now that Honshu has been recaptured, he will be forced to stay with the monkeys he was trying to run from, which is sad news for him. 

Had not been recaptured there is a chance he would have survived in the highlands as Japanese macaques are adapted to cold temperatures (these macaques can survive temperatures of -40C) and are omnivores, but it is possible he would not have been able to find enough food (he was spotting eating the seeds of a bird feeder).  At least he experienced five days of freedom and peace, something that his companion monkeys may never experience. 

Jordi Casamitjana
“Originally from Catalonia, but resident in the UK for several decades, Jordi is a vegan zoologist and author, who has been involved in different aspects of animal protection for many years. In addition to scientific research, he has worked mostly as an undercover investigator, animal welfare consultant, and animal protection campaigner. He has been an ethical vegan since 2002, and in 2020 he secured the legal protection of all ethical vegans in Great Britain from discrimination in a landmark employment tribunal case that was discussed all over the world. He is also the author of the book, ‘Ethical Vegan: a personal and political journey to change the world’.