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Last Updated: Tuesday, 23 August 2005, 14:39 GMT 15:39 UK
Pesky pets pilfer ping-pong balls
Pygmy marmoset: picture courtesy Newquay Zoo
Keepers will find other toys for Ping Pong and his mates to play with
Cunning culprits who have been stealing from an exhibition at a Cornish zoo have been caught.

But it is unlikely charges will be brought - as the thieves have been revealed as animals from Newquay Zoo.

Keepers were suspicious when ping-pong balls used to replicate turtle eggs kept disappearing from an exhibition.

But two Aracari toucans, a pygmy marmoset and a rare Bali starling have now been caught red-handed after a stake-out by the zoo's photographer.

Rainforest toys

The Shell Shock campaign at the zoo was set up to raise awareness of the plight of turtles and tortoises around the world.

It features a giant turtle shell on sand and the keepers were using ping-pong balls to replicate the eggs.

When the balls started disappearing, the photographer was sent in to investigate.

Two Aracari Toucans were captured on film stealing the balls and taking them back to their rainforest canopy.

Minutes later a baby pygmy marmoset, the smallest monkey species in the world, also crept in and started playing with the ping-pong balls.

Then the rare and endangered Bali starling was also caught red-handed.

Photographer Michelle Turton told BBC News: "I couldn't quite believe what I was seeing."

"The display was in the tropical house, which is off limits to the animals during the day, but they can roam about the public areas at night."

The remaining balls have been removed and keepers are experimenting with other items for the birds and marmosets to play with.

To mark the criminal capers, the zoo has also decided the name the pygmy marmoset Ping-Pong.

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