Elusive border-crossing monkey found in Israel returned to Lebanon

'Tachtouche' was returned by UN peacekeepers

Tachtouch the monkey being fed by its French owner, Beatrice Mauger, in Al Qouzah in southern Lebanon on June 7, 2019. AFP
Tachtouch the monkey being fed by its French owner, Beatrice Mauger, in Al Qouzah in southern Lebanon on June 7, 2019. AFP

A Lebanese monkey who breached the border with Israel has been reunited with its owner after a week on the loose.

Tachtouche the Kenyan vervet escaped from his French nun owner in Southern Lebanon, making his way over the border with Israel which has been closed for 20 years.

“I have faith in God and I believe that it’s not an accident that Tachtouche escaped," Sister Beatrice Mauger told The National after his escape.

"[God] is thumbing his nose at a border that divides us humans.”

Humans are not able to make the journey across the border as the two countries are still technically at war, leading to Tachtouche being returned by UN peacekeepers.

This picture taken on June 7, 2019, shows the monkey Tachtouch in Al Qouzah, southern Lebanon. A Lebanese monkey who breached the border with Israel was returned to its owner on June 7 by United Nations peacekeepers after cavorting for more than a week in enemy territory. Its owner, a French nun who describes herself as a "virgin hermit", was quick to see the primate's escapade across one of the world's most tense borders as a message of peace. Tachtouch escaped late last month, prompting its owner Beatrice Mauger who runs a peace project in southern Lebanon to launch an appeal on Facebook. / AFP / Mahmoud ZAYYAT
The Lebanese monkey breached the border with Israel but was returned to its owner by United Nations peacekeepers after cavorting for more than a week in enemy territory. AFP

The monkey was spotted in multiple locations but evaded capture for more than a week before being captured Thursday.

"We have captured the Lebanese monkey in good health," the Yodfat Monkey Forest in northern Israel said on Facebook late Thursday, adding the team were “happy and proud” to have played a part in the rescue.

The capture took five days of stalking by three women with "determination, love and faith", the post said, including a video of the three sitting with the monkey in a cage in the boot of a car.

Tachtouche escaped last week, prompting Mauger, who runs a peace project in southern Lebanon, to launch an appeal on Facebook.

"Please Tachtouche come back to Ark of Peace!" she wrote on June 1, with a promise that the village children would hand out bananas as a reward.

The return voyage across the fortified border had to be undertaken with help from the UN's peacekeeping force UNIFIL.

An Israeli army spokesman told AFP earlier in the day the monkey was "handed over to United Nations forces to be returned to its owners in Lebanon".

Israel withdrew from southern Lebanon in 2000 but the two states remain technically at war.

The UN deployment is supposed to monitor the border area between the two states as well as the ceasefire.

Updated: June 8, 2019 09:28 AM

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