'Tachtouch' returns to Lebanon after monkeying around in Israel

Al Qouzah (Lebanon) (AFP) –


A Lebanese monkey who breached the border with Israel was returned to its owner Friday 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.

"Please Tachtouch 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.

But Tachtouch was far away, having slipped across the militarised frontier into the Jewish state.

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

"We have captured the Lebanese monkey in good health," the Yodfat Monkey Forest in northern Israel said on Facebook late Thursday.

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.

"He took the drama out of the border by ignoring the wall and the barbed wire," Sister Beatrice told AFP Friday on a phone messaging application after being reunited with Tachtouch.

"This vervet is a peace messenger," she said, referring to the type of monkey Tachtouch is.

"Peace to all of Tachtouch's fans who helped him to cross a sealed border, a prophetic sign of the reopening of the Israeli-Lebanese border," she added.

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.