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Why would anyone steal Banana Sam, beloved San Francisco monkey?

A 17-year-old squirrel monkey named Banana Sam was stolen Friday morning from the San Fransciso Zoo. In the past, zoo thieves have tried to sell stolen zoo animals and even used them to impress girlfriends.

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The San Francisco Zoo is offering a $5,000 reward to anyone who can help recover Banana Sam, a two-pound, 17-year-old squirrel monkey nabbed from the zoo overnight Friday. But the audacious heist of the beloved monkey begs a question: Why would anyone steal a monkey, or any other zoo animal for that matter?

In 2009, Palm Beach, Fla., police arrested several teenagers after the heist of three squirrel monkeys and a Goeldi's monkey – Simone, Sallie, Dougie and Elsie – and a Green-Cheeked Amazon parrot with a gimpy leg named Chalupa. Investigators believed the animals may have been bound for sale. Available as pets in the US, the monkeys can sell for as much as $3,000.

The Palm Beach Zoo also had four tamarin monkeys stolen in 1998, three of which were recovered after they apparently escaped from their captor.

``We've seen them surface on the pet market here in Florida, so that's what we think they were taken for,'' curator Randi Meyerson McCormick told the Sun-Sentinel newspaper at the time. ``Actually, though, they're very lousy pets. They bite and scratch and they're loud. We're kind of laughing at the idea that right now someone is trying to have this monkey as a pet.''

Other zoo theft motives have been more mundane. A theft of a mother and daughter pair of Koalas from the San Francisco Zoo in 2000 turned out have been carried out by two teenage boys wanting to impress their girlfriends with exotic Christmas presents.

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