Headlines out of Paris had already been dramatic this week. The riverbanks of the Seine were overflowing, the Louvre shut down its lower floors to protect priceless art, and rats were swarming the streets in droves—and then came the baboons.
Fifty-two, to be exact, escaped from the Paris Zoological Park in the outskirts of the city. The zoo was evacuated and keepers deployed a rehearsed plan for just such an escape, which entailed deploying a large safety device, reports Le Parisien.
It took no less than 80 emergency responders, many armed with pop-up fences and tranquiliser guns.
By Friday afternoon, all except four of the baboons had been reportedly captured and returned to their enclosure. Zookeepers told the French outlet they have eyes on the remaining escapees and that they're in an area the public can't access.
Zookeepers still aren't sure how the monkeys escaped. A report by Newsweek notes that the monkeys' enclosure has artificial rocks, trees, and covered areas, but no roof.
If any animal was going to make headlines for clever antics, it's baboons.
The animals are smart and infamously opportunistic.
In 2011, several escaped from a wildlife park in Jackson, New Jersey. Residents reported seeing the monkeys in backyards and roaming through neighbourhoods, before they were eventually captured.
In South Africa, baboons have been caught breaking into homes, raiding cars, and stealing groceries.
A study published in the journal Scientific Reports last November found many baboons regularly decided to forgo their wild environment for urban areas, where they could easily find more calorie-rich food.
Their sit-and-wait technique involved male baboons hovering around urban perimeters before foraying into the city.
At their most intimidating, troupes of baboons can number up to 100. The monkeys have incredibly complex social structures, and they're great at communicating with each other.
In fact, one of the techniques zookeepers used to corral the monkeys back into their pen was by taking advantage of the herd instinct that bonds them together. In a tweet, the zoo noted it was only a matter of time until remaining escaped monkeys returned to their group.
Earlier this month, a study published in the journal PLOS ONE found Guinea baboons can even make vowel-like sounds akin to human speech.
For now, Paris zookeepers will have to rely on more physical means of interacting with their deserters. The zoo is expected to remain on lockdown until at least Saturday.
Lead Image: A family of Guinea baboons stand on a rock at the Paris Zoological Park in 2015. PHOTOGRAPH BY BERTRAND GUAY, AFP, GETTY