Authorities throughout Europe have been advised to be on the lookout for wildlife smugglers after five endangered monkeys were stolen from the UK's Blackpool zoo earlier this week in what is being called a "targeted" heist.
Police say thieves cut a hole in the zoo's perimeter fence and broke the locks on two enclosures, making off with a pair of emperor tamarins and three cotton-top tamarins, including a mother and her baby.
"It would appear from the way that these thieves have broken into the zoo that this was a planned and pre-meditated crime and that the offenders knew what they were looking for and knew that the monkeys would be in the enclosures," said Blackpool police officer Steve Higgs in a statement.
Cotton-top tamarins are considered one of the most endangered primates on the planet, with as few as 6,000 remaining in the wild. Capture for the illegal pet trade is ranked among the species' biggest threats in their native habitat of northwest Colombia -- but evidently tamarins held in captivity may be in peril too.
"This was a very targeted theft from two enclosures and include the loss of a mother and baby," the Bristol zoo wrote on its Facebook page. "The police are investigating and all ports and airports have been notified."