2020 will almost certainly be a strange year. The news of the world can be hard to wrap your head around, and headlines these days—especially in an election year—can seem outright unbelievable. Let’s try this one on, for example: “Galveston Police Are Uncertain if an Escaped Monkey Is Alive or Dead After Its Owners Stopped Cooperating With an Investigation.”
As KHOU-TV reports, Lilly—a capuchin monkey who had been living as a pet with a family in Galveston’s East End—escaped after someone broke into the home. Initially, the Lilly’s family worked with police to find her, but, in an unlikely twist, reports on Tuesday morning indicated that the monkey had met an untimely fate after being hit by a car.
It’s still not clear that the monkey has, in fact, died: Galveston authorities have disputed the claim, and local police put out a press release later in that day explaining that “reports of the demise of Lilly the Capuchin monkey that was missing in Galveston are premature. There has been no confirmation of such … the search continues.”
It’s unusual that someone might fake the death of their beloved family pet—let alone a monkey! But in this case, there would be incentives for someone to do so: In 2001, during the seventy-seventh Texas legislative session, the state passed a law allowing for local control of exotic animal regulation. Various cities and counties have their own rules regarding exotic pet possession, and in Galveston, a capuchin monkey qualifies for that. Galveston County stopped handing out permits for exotic animals in 2007, and the city itself amended its code to read, “It shall be unlawful for any person to possess, keep, permit, cause or allow any wild or exotic animal upon or within any premises within the city.” (It does allow for an exception for zoos, circuses, veterinary hospitals, and “performing animal exhibitions.”)
The family upped the ante on Wednesday, telling Houston’s KTRK-TV that they’d recovered Lilly’s body from the accident and buried her in their backyard. Police actively disputed the claim, too, explaining that “Our investigation revealed that was not the case.” According to the ABC affiliate, officers reported receiving a call on Monday evening stating that a monkey had been hit by a car—but no monkey was found. Authorities then said they would issue charges against the family when Lilly is eventually recovered.
In the meantime, no one can say what exactly happened to the lil’ monkey. There’s no indication besides the single anonymous call to police that she was harmed, but we don’t know where she actually is at the moment. Maybe she’s back with her family, and is well-hidden from authorities! Maybe the rogue monkey is living on the lam, prowling the wilds of Galveston, living her best life on the beach! Who can say?
Whatever is actually the case, though, the saga of Schrödinger’s Galveston monkey—alive and dead, caged and free, all at the same time—is probably the most bizarre Texas story in 2020 thus far. On the other hand, it’s only January, and things are certainly going to get odder as we move toward the weirdness vortex that we’ve all been hurtling toward in the early decades of the twenty-first century. In the meantime, let’s hope that wherever she is, Lilly is enjoying all of the berries and bugs she can get her little hands on.