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REVIEW: Thanks for our scoop, Honshu!


By Tom Ramage

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How did the Strathy scoop the world on the mega monkey story?

We have to confess that, like all the best exclusives, it simply fell in our lap – quite literally.

Honshu, initially dubbed Kincraig Kong until he was officially named by the Highland Wildlife Park team, just walked across the Strathy reporter Tom Ramage’s lawn on the Sunday morning!

A map of Honshu - not the Japanese island, the Japanese macaque. How he was spotted over the week. (RZSS)
A map of Honshu - not the Japanese island, the Japanese macaque. How he was spotted over the week. (RZSS)

That prompted an immediate check on Facebook to see if other villagers had done their own double-takes and, much to the relief of the ‘News Beast of Badenoch’, they had – with bells on.

Video images and stills had been posted locally, so within minutes the story was broken on the Strathy’s website.

Carl Nagle who spotted an escaped monkey in his garden at Kincraig...pic Peter Jolly
Carl Nagle who spotted an escaped monkey in his garden at Kincraig...pic Peter Jolly

And the rest was history: Inverness Courier, Press & Journal, BBC, STV and by the end of the day the monkey’s tale had stretched to the Bangkok Post, Sky TV Australia and ultimately the New York Times.

Five days later the search – effected in some of the worst weather conditions so far in this wicked winter – had traced Honshu and netted him safely, courtesy of a tranquiliser dart, in Insh.

Netted at last: a Highland Wildlife Park team member finally captures a tranquilized Honshu at Insh
Netted at last: a Highland Wildlife Park team member finally captures a tranquilized Honshu at Insh

Looking back on the amazing week, it was of course all nuts.

That’s how Honshu seemed to sum it up: “For five days I was a free as a bird, so I just wanted to eat like one...”

That’s why he was battling with Carl Nagle and Tiina Salzberg’s birdfeeder, albeit none too successfully, soon after breaking out of his enclosure at the Highland Wildlife Park.

The Kincraig couple captured the first moving pictures and shared them with us before the story went global, never mind viral.

From left: drone operator Ben Harrower and Keith Gilchrist(head of animal collections at the Highland Wildlife Park) who led the search. (Peter Jolly)
From left: drone operator Ben Harrower and Keith Gilchrist(head of animal collections at the Highland Wildlife Park) who led the search. (Peter Jolly)

We like the way the couple saw the story because there’s no doubt that it caught the spirit of the whole five-day saga.

“It is kinda lovely,” said Tiina.

“I mean, the world’s gone to hell in a hand-basket in lots of ways and I think this is a human interest story, not very divisive, where everyone’s kinda rallying for the monkey.”

“Yes, it’s a feel-good story that we can all look at and agree is amusing in relatively dull times,” agreed Carl.

The feedback from our web stories certainly bore that out.

Honshu at Insh: the Bunyans tipped off the team after seeing the monkey in their garden
Honshu at Insh: the Bunyans tipped off the team after seeing the monkey in their garden

In a week of vile weather, thawing hills, bursting rivers, flooded fields, closed roads, cancelled main line trains, a suspended mountain railway, slaughtered chickens and heaven knows what else, Honshu did us all a power of good diverting us for a few days.

Stephanie Bunyan told the Strathy: We tipped off the park team. Yorkshire pud was put out the night before under the bird feeders. It was gone the next morning but I cannot say definitely that Honshu ate it as I didn’t see him actually eating it!"
Stephanie Bunyan told the Strathy: We tipped off the park team. Yorkshire pud was put out the night before under the bird feeders. It was gone the next morning but I cannot say definitely that Honshu ate it as I didn’t see him actually eating it!"

And how did he ever get across the Spey? Did he take his life in his hands crossing the Kincraig bridge, along with all the other pedestrians?

If anyone knows, will they please tell us!

THE END: We'll give Honshu the last word!
THE END: We'll give Honshu the last word!

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