A man has admitted breaking in to Wellington Zoo's squirrel monkey enclosure and causing damage.

The 23-year-old appeared in the Wellington District Court today via audio visual link, and pleaded guilty to charges of burglary, intentional damage and assault with intent to injure.

He was granted interim name suppression and has been remanded in custody for sentencing in September.

His lawyer told the judge he would be pushing for permanent name suppression.

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The man broke into the enclosure overnight on Friday April 6.

One of the female squirrel monkeys was at first presumed stolen, but was later found scared and hiding in a corner.

Police said they were not looking for anyone else.


Wellington Zoo chief executive Karen Fifield said they were pleased someone was in custody and thanked the police. She referred further inquiries to them.

Some of the squirrel monkeys at Wellington Zoo were injured during the break-in. Photo / Wellington Zoo
Some of the squirrel monkeys at Wellington Zoo were injured during the break-in. Photo / Wellington Zoo

The April break-in was discovered when keepers doing Saturday morning checks found the enclosure damaged.

It appeared bolt cutters were used to open a door into the golden lion tamarins' area, before someone went into the squirrel monkey enclosure.

Several of the monkeys were injured, including scratches and pulled muscles. Some had large bruises and lameness. One monkey had a haematoma on its elbow and others had scratch marks. Zoo staff at the time said this indicated they had been grabbed.

At the time, primates team leader Harmony Neale said it was traumatic to see the monkeys wounded and frightened.

"It's not something I've ever had to come across before, in the 14 years I've been here.

"It took a few seconds for it to sink in, what had happened, and then to think about how to deal with the situation."

Zoo staff let the squirrel monkeys recover in their enclosure for as long as possible to calm the sociable critters by keeping them together.

They were also given some extra food, as well as currants as a treat.