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Feral rhesus macaque facts for kids

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Silver River monkey
A rhesus macaque on Florida's Silver River.

Feral rhesus macaques are wild troupes of the rhesus macaque released by researchers, zoos, or private owners, that have been able to survive and propagate in several places in the United States.


Various colonies of rhesus and other monkey species, such as common squirrel monkeys and vervet monkeys, have been found in Florida. They are thought to have gained freedom after zoo and wildlife park facilities were destroyed in hurricanes, most notably Hurricane Andrew.

As of September 12,  2013 (2013 -09-12), more than 1,000 rhesus macaques live in the state; officials have caught more than 700 of the monkeys in the past decade. Most of the captured monkeys tested positive for herpes B virus. Wildlife officials consider the animals a public health hazard.

Silver Springs State Park

A colony of rhesus macaques was established around Silver Springs in Florida around the spring of 1938. The monkeys were released by tour boat operator Colonel Tooey to enhance his Jungle Cruise ride. A traditional story that the monkeys were released for scenery enhancement in the Tarzan movies that were filmed at that location is false, as the only Tarzan movie filmed in the area, 1939's Tarzan Finds a Son! contains no rhesus macaques, in part because of the species' bad temperament. The monkeys continue to thrive along the Silver River to this day.

Tampa Bay

The "Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay" is a rhesus macaque that was on the loose and evading capture for approximately four years in St. Petersburg, Florida. The monkey is thought to be a male that weighs 30 pounds.

Authorities are not certain of the origin of this monkey; it may have migrated from the troupe of wild monkeys in Silver Springs State Park, approximately 103 miles northeast of St. Petersburg. It may have escaped from an owner who did not have a wildlife permit and had not registered the monkey.

A Facebook page for the monkey was set up, which attracted more than 82,600 fans (as of Feb. 4, 2012). The monkey is shy and not considered a threat to humans. Its continued success at avoiding capture was compared to the TV series The Fugitive. The monkey reportedly looks both ways to check for traffic before crossing the street. The monkey has been mentioned in national media, and an episode of The Colbert Report. On the afternoon of October 24, 2012, wildlife officials spotted the macaque in a tree in St. Petersburg's Lake Maggiore neighborhood, and used a tranquilizer dart to first immobilize and then capture it.

The captured monkey was put in Dade City's Wild Things animal sanctuary in Pasco County.

South Carolina

There is a notable colony of rhesus macaques on Morgan Island, one of the Sea Islands in the South Carolina Lowcountry. They were imported in the 1970s for use in the local labs and now number approximately 3000.

Puerto Rico

A research colony was established by the Caribbean Primate Research Center of the University of Puerto Rico on the island of Cayo Santiago, off of Puerto Rico. There are no predators on the island, and humans are not permitted to land, except as part of the research program.

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