Down On The Farm

Andrew blew down her carambola trees and nearly toppled her restaurant. Joan Green thought she'd seen it all. And then the monkeys attacked.

Soon after the hurricane, looters tried to steal food and farm equipment from her groves, but were chased away. They were followed on Wednesday by the monkeys, who were not so quick to leave.

More than 2000 of the primates escaped in South Dade, many from the nearby Mannheimer Primatological Foundation. "The National Guard had told us they had the AIDS virus and other diseases, that the monkeys were being tested," says Ed, who works for Green and lives in a house located in the middle of one of her orchards. (Ed requested that his last name not be used.) Large numbers of the monkeys found their way to Green's property. "I kept shooing 'em off, shooing 'em off," Ed recalls, "but they wouldn't leave because they were hungry. They just wouldn't leave. They were coming in groups, 20 and 30 of them."

The rhesus monkeys were a couple of feet tall, but Ed says the baboons were more imposing: they were almost four feet tall. As Ed worked in the battered groves, the monkeys grew bolder, approaching him more and more closely. He went to an army camp to ask for help, but the soldiers said they were too busy with other matters.

By the second day of his primate infestation, Ed was growing increasingly anxious. "About five or six in the morning on Friday, I couldn't take it any more," he says. "I fired a few rounds in the air. It wouldn't do any good. They'd go off and then come right back."

And when they came back, they were even more aggressive -- pushing against the window screens, seemingly trying to break in. It was too much for Ed. He grabbed his rifle, rushed outside, and opened fire. "I must have hit two or three," he says.

The injured monkeys ran off with the others and made it as far as a property fence before collapsing. About a half-dozen monkeys stayed with the wounded animals. Ed scared them away and then shot those injured so they wouldn't continue to suffer. "I never shot anything in my life that we didn't eat," he says, obviously upset at the memory. But he believes he had no choice, given what the National Guardsmen had told him. After the shooting, the monkeys did not return. "Then the next day some guy comes out," Ed recounts, "saying he was a doctor from the lab and that the monkeys didn't have any AIDS and that somebody was giving out misinformation."

Joan Green, hearing Ed's story, considering all that has befallen her and other victims of Andrew, lets out a deep sigh. "It makes you cry," she says. "It just breaks you down. It's the weirdest thing I have ever seen in all my life. It's not the friendly, green, and lush place that it was before.

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