It’s been four long weeks for Leona Wilsey, but she hasn’t given up hope yet that Austin, a black-capped capuchin monkey, will return to her Rotterdam home safe and sound.
On Friday, after receiving a tip from the Rotterdam Police Department, Wilsey went looking for her pet behind the Hannaford store on Altamont Avenue. Austin, however, wasn’t there.
“Somebody heard something in the bushes, so they called the police and they called me,” said Wilsey, who purchased the monkey more than 10 years ago. “He’s not at all aggressive. But he’s very timid, and he’s afraid, so he won’t go to someone he doesn’t know. We’ve had a few calls from people who have heard something, and we’ve also had a few visual sightings but nothing recently.”
A native of South and Central America, capuchin monkeys are also referred to as “organ-grinder” monkees. They live an average of 15-25 years, but some have lived as long as 45 years. Often used in Hollywood movies and television because they are relatively intelligent and easy to train, capuchins live on a diet of nuts, fruit, insects and larvae, eggs and young birds, frogs and lizards.
Austin, who spends much of his time inside Wilsey’s house, escaped in September from his outdoor cage.
“I don’t know how exactly, but he got out and left, which he has never done before,” said Wilsey. “We put out some fliers telling people he had escaped, and the neighborhood watch has been out there looking for him. Many people have been very helpful, and I appreciate that very much, but they shouldn’t try to get close to him. He will just run away.”
Not all of the help has been helpful, Wilsey said.
“I’ve gotten a few prank phone calls, and I also felt I was being followed when I was out looking for him, so I told the Rotterdam police,” Wilsey said. “It’s very unfortunate, and I’m very upset.”
Capuchin monkeys are typically not nocturnal, but Wilsey is doing everything she can to get Austin back.
“We have night cameras set up looking for him, and we have a number of live traps, but I’m only catching possums and squirrels,” said Wilsey. “We even had a dog tracking him.”
Anyone with information about Austin’s whereabouts should call the Rotterdam police.
Reach Gazette reporter Bill Buell at 395-3190 or [email protected]