BY TOM HESTER SR.
Boy, how time flies. Turns out its been over 12 years since police had to shoot and kill a 430-point escaped Bengal tiger that was roaming the backyards and pine forests of Jackson in Ocean County.
Well, for New Jerseyans who missed that cheap thrill in January 1999, an escaped baboon is now on the loose in Jackson. It’s no Bengal tiger but it’s still something to keep at arm’s length.
As of Friday afternoon, at least five residents and a Jackson police officer had sighted the baboon in the Oakwood Drive, Winterberry Boulevard and Buttonwood Drive neighborhoods.
The baboon, which is believed to have escaped from nearby Monkey Jungle at Six Flags Great Adventure Wild Safari Park, was first sighted at 2 p.m. Thursday sitting on the east side of Interstate 195 near Exit 16. Twenty minutes later, a woman called police to report the baboon was sitting on her back porch.
Great Adventure informed the state Department of Environmental Protection on Thursday that the baboon may belong to it, but noted the Monkey Jungle has over 140 baboons so it’s kind of tough to get a head count.
On Friday afternoon, Great Adventure employees with dart guns and state troopers had joined the hunt.
“We’ve been made aware that a few residents of Jackson contacted the Jackson police about an animal sighting today,” Great Adventure spokeswoman Kristin Siebeneicher told The Star-Ledger. "We’re taking any claim seriously and are providing support to Jackson police to attempt to validate the authenticity of any sighting.”
The baboon has become known among twitter enthusiasts as “Jersey the Baboon.
Police said anyone who spots the baboon should not approach it but should call them immediately at 732-928-1111.
The tiger did not belong to Great Adventure. It escaped from the Tigers Only Preservation Society compound that was run by Joan Byron-Marasek in Jackson. She had 24 tigers on her property. In 2003, the state Department of Environmental Protection was successful in getting the compound to shut down and the tigers were shipped to Texas.