POLICE are still trying to trace a man seen in Southend Sealife Adventure's meerkat enclosure moments before they escaped.

Centre bosses say a man broke in at about 7pm last Friday and was seen on the roof moments before the animals escaped and were seen running along Southend seafront.

Basildon Standard:

On top - a man was seen on the enclosure

Basildon Standard:

Peering - the man was spotted on camera

CCTV footage showing the man has since been released by Sealife Adventure.

But despite pictures of a man being widely circulated, Essex Police have confirmed no arrests have been made.

Luckily, the animals, which were relatively new and were part of the centre’s “Wild” refurbishment, were safely recovered shortly after their great escape.

The meerkat gang were seen running down Southend Seafront causing a stir among spectators.

A spokesman from Sealife Adventure, said: “We need your help to catch this mindless criminal who put our animals in danger by breaking into Sealife Adventure, destroying their home, lovingly built to be the best environment for them.

“We would like to say a massive thank you to the members of the Sealife Adventure team, police officers, PCSO and members of the public who made sure that our meerkats returned safe and sound to their home after a mindless criminal put them at risk.

“An idiot decided to break in to Sealife Adventure Wild, and proceeded to wreck the purpose built meerkat enclosure, allowing the meerkats to escape onto the seafront putting both our meerkats and the public at risk.

“We would urge anyone with any information about this crime to come forward, and to this end are offering a reward of £1,000 along with a Sealife Adventure and Adventure Island Annual pass as well a chance to meet our meerkats now they are safely home for information leading to the arrest of the person responsible for this crime.”

An Essex Police spokesman said: “We are investigating reports a meerkat enclosure was damaged at Sealife Adventure, in Eastern Esplanade, Southend, at about 7.45pm on Friday. A number of meerkats escaped as a result but were safely rounded up. Witnesses who saw anyone acting suspiciously at the time are asked to call the Southend community policing team on 101 quoting reference 42/110687/19.”