AN INQUIRY has been launched after two monkeys escaped from their enclosure and put a Hampshire zoo on lockdown.

About 1,300 people visiting Marwell Zoo near Winchester were told to stay indoors while keepers armed with nets searched for the missing macaques.

They were caught within ten minutes but a member of the public reported seeing another macaque some distance away near the flamingo park.

By the time keepers realised it was a false alarm the lockdown had been in place for about 30 minutes.

Emergency procedures were put in place at the 140-acre site - home to hundreds of animals including giraffes, tigers and penguins - after two of Marwell's five macaques escaped on Saturday.

Visitors were ushered into buildings including a cafe and a gift shop and kept indoors until it was deemed safe for them to go out.

Two of those caught up in the drama motorcycle instructor Paddy Covey and his wife Sarah from Lymington.

Paddy said: “We were sitting outside the cafe when the staff asked us to move inside as there was an escaped monkey.

"We were kept there for about half an hour but allowed out again as soon as they found the creature. Everyone was very calm and staff handled it in a very professional manner.

“We weren’t worried. To be honest I wanted to go and look for it.”

A Marwell spokesman said a male and a female macaque escaped just after 12.30pm and were caught within a 30-metre radius of their enclosure.

She added: "Macaques are not classified as dangerous and have a tendency to run away. If they're cornered they could potentially become aggressive, but our visitors complied with the advice they were given and were in no danger.

"Reports that a third macaque has escaped turned out to be a false alarm but resulted in the lockdown lasting longer than needed."

An investigation has been launched into how the monkeys escaped from their island closure, which is surrounded by an electrified fence.

A statement on Marwell's website: "We are grateful for the way in which our guests co-operated and thank them for their understanding.

"Our thanks to our animal management team who responded swiftly and carried out a model response.

"The two macaques have rejoined the rest of the family and all five will remain in the indoor part of their enclosure until a full investigation has been carried out.

"Our vet team has carried out checks and we are happy to report that the animals came to no harm."