Public warned not to approach wild monkey that escaped from Co Wicklow sanctuary

Capuchin monkey, rescued from a UK lab about 20 years ago, broke loose from Monkey Sanctuary Ireland in Rathdrum earlier this month

Members of the public have been advised not to approach a wild monkey that broke loose from a sanctuary and made his way into the woodlands of Co Wicklow.

Charlie, a Capuchin monkey rescued from a UK lab about 20 years ago, escaped his island at the Monkey Sanctuary Ireland in Rathdrum earlier this month.

His owner Willie Heffernan believes Charlie will be able to survive with his foraging skills but that traffic around the area could prove his biggest threat.

While non-aggressive and disease free, the monkey is not used to contact with people who are warned to keep away and contact the sanctuary if they spot him.


“He won’t attack unless you try and pick him up,” he said. “He’ll bite you, he’ll nip you, he’s like a feral cat.

“He’s not a pet, he’s never been petted so he’s not used to that. I would put food in a pulley-bucket and I’ll wheel it overhead to the island, that’s the only contact [he has]. And cleaning out and if he needs any veterinary care.”

He is also expected to avoid built up areas and stay in the wooded areas, of which there is no shortage.

“You couldn’t get any more wilderness, continuous trees and forests and wildlife. From Laragh all the way down to Arklow is one big huge wooded [area],” Mr Heffernan said.

“The only unfortunate thing is he wouldn’t be aware of traffic and he looks exactly like a cat so he could easily be killed crossing the road. And also it’s the hunting season and he likes sitting up on top of trees with no leaves so he’s a prime target.”

Mr Heffernan said Charlie escaped from his island via a fallen tree when staff had been attempting to relocate him and another monkey.

Charlie is one of 25 monkeys at the sanctuary, most of which were rescued from lab environments.

According to the sanctuary website, the “island monkeys” had spent their entire lives in cages but are now free to spend their days climbing and swinging through the trees.

Although native to South America, they have adapted well to Irish weather and live in insulated houses fitted with continuous heat lamps during the winter and even radios playing classical music.

Their diet of vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and potatoes, among other things, is supplied by local supermarkets.

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Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard

Mark Hilliard is a reporter with The Irish Times