Drive off course at your own risk at the Knowsley Safari Park

By Thailan Pham
Updated July 24, 2009 07:14 PM
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Planning a visit to see the baboons at Knowsley Safari Park in Merseyside, U.K.? Don’t veer off the suggested path or your rooftop luggage – and your panties! – could become property of the monkeys there!

The chimps who reside at the park’s baboon exhibit have developed quite a reputation of tearing off windshield wipers or damaging car mirrors when people drive into the center of the park instead of following suggested routes.

“[Animals] do legendary damage,” David Ross tells PEOPLE Pets. “But the baboons have reached a new level.” After several baboon luggage break-ins took place earlier this year, Ross and his team constantly warned visitors about the kind of damage the monkeys could do. “We have a car-friendly route and were advocating everyone take this route,” he says. “Some didn’t believe us [and] wanted to go in. And they were going to get their luggage stolen.”

So Ross staged a set-up: He borrowed a junkyard car, recruited colleagues to donate old clothes for storage in a rooftop luggage box and drove through the baboon exhibit with two photographers capturing the mayhem.

Sure enough, within minutes, the largest baboon (weighing roughly 25 kilos or 55 lbs.) sprung on top of the box, jumping until it flexed and popped open. Immediately, 140 baboons dove in for a luggage-stealing frenzy. “One put on a hat and walked across the road!” says Ross. “Others just played with the stuff, ladies’ underwear and everything. They had an absolute ball.”

The picture above is just one of the shots Ross and his team have been showing visitors before they drive through the park as a warning of things to come. The response? The photos have only been on posters for a few days, but they’ve had an impact. “We’ve had one or two luggage boxes through since and they’ve all seen the footage – and they’re taking the car-friendly route,” he says. Mission accomplished!