SAN FRANCISCO -- Banana Sam, the beloved squirrel monkey who achieved instant fame when he was kidnapped from his enclosure at the San Francisco Zoo, died Thursday at the age of 19 from complications of heart disease.
The 2-pound, orange and gray fuzzy monkey, who moved to the zoo when he was 15 years old, found himself a snugly spot in the zoo's folklore when intruders cut the wire at the squirrel monkey enclosure and scooped him up the night of Dec. 30, 2011. The next day, a man came forward with the cuddly creature after a $5,000 reward was offered, saying he lured him into his backpack after discovering him at San Francisco's Stern Grove.
Banana Sam skyrocketed to international fame over the course of his brief disappearance, with news outlets abroad carrying news of the missing monkey and Twitter enthusiasts at home creating an account bearing his name. He was among the oldest of the 20 squirrel monkeys who came to the zoo in 2010 after funding for a local research program was discontinued, and he attracted scores of visitors to his enclosure until his very last days.
"We announce his passing with great sadness," zoo spokeswoman Abbie Tuller said. "Banana Sam was a beloved member of the San Francisco Zoo, and he will be missed by staff, volunteers and visitors."