Florida's Wild Monkey Population Is Growing (Which Is Less Cute Than It Sounds)

Florida's Wild Monkey Population Is Growing (Which Is Less Cute Than It Sounds)
Photo By Anoldent via WikiCommons

Wouldn't it be great to be Tarzan? You'd have great abs and hang out with wild monkeys all the time. Maybe more realistically, you could at least get rid of those love handles and live in a place where you could occasionally see monkeys out in the wild going about their monkey business. 

Well, we have news that might at first seem good. Biologists believe that a small wild monkey population in Central Florida is not only growing but also expanding its habitation area. 

Now the bad news: The monkeys might be harmful to humans. (Less relevant but still disappointing: This news has no actual repercussions for the structure of your midsection, but good luck with those new year's resolutions.) 

According to the Orlando Sentinel, a population of rhesus macaque monkeys has called the Silver Springs State Park in Ocala home for decades. The monkey's ancestry dates to the 1930s, when a man who ran a riverboat tour company decided to drum up business by buying a pack of monkeys and putting them on an island in Silver Springs. What this man apparently didn't realize is that monkeys are capable of swimming, and swim they did. Soon they expanded to the nearby woods. 

Historical estimates of the population aren't exact, but between 1978 and 2012, the State of Florida allowed a trapper to capture the monkeys in the area. The trapper then sold them to medical research facilities. In all, 772 monkeys were captured that way. 

Naturally, people got uncomfortable with the idea of the monkeys being sold into animal testing, so the practice was stopped. 

University of Florida biologists now estimate that 200 monkeys live there. Sightings of the monkeys in human populated areas are also on the rise. In fact, some monkeys have now been spotted in recent months in Lady Lake and the Villages, which are about 20 miles south of the state park. 

"I suspect that there are some monkeys that have spread out of the national forest, and it's not unreasonable to think they've gone down to Lake Griffin," biologist Bob Gottschalk told the Sentinel. "Once you get that far south, you get into Lake County."

That's cute and all, but the monkeys can carry the herpes-B virus, which can be deadly to humans. However, transmission from a free-range wild monkey to humans has never been documented. Then again, this is Florida — weirder things have happened. Be careful if you spot one of the primates. You aren't actually Tarzan. (But, hey, don't be afraid to check out gym memberships. There are a lot of great deals this time of year.)


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