Florida's Wild Macaques
November 7, 2019 6:27 AM   Subscribe

In 1938, Colonel Tooey, a tour boat operator on Florida's Silver River, released somewhere between six and twenty rhesus macaques on a small island in the river* in order to jazz up the scenery on his "Jungle Cruise." The macaques were off the island "within minutes," and today there are several hundred wild monkeys roaming the Silver Springs State Park area.

Their numbers are expected to grow significantly in the coming years, which is a problem because they're mean as hell, disruptive to the local ecosystem, and also carry the deadly herpes B virus.

Counterpoint; they're extremely handsome, and some of them enjoy a dip in the river from time to time which isn't at all terrifying.

At least they're not monitor lizards.

Additional (outdated and paywalled) reading.

* Reports that the monkeys actually escaped from a 1939 Tarzan movie production are false.
posted by saladin (10 comments total) 12 users marked this as a favorite
For a long form piece about Florida's extensive and insane history of releasing non-native animals into the ecosystem, I recommend the New Yorker article "Swamp Things: Florida’s uninvited predators"
posted by gwint at 6:33 AM on November 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

I grew up going to Silver Springs, and it never occurred to me until just now that those monkeys weren't native. I was not a bright child (or adult).
posted by Optamystic at 8:10 AM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Simian Herpes is no joke. It has something like a 80% fatality rate if untreated. I met a zookeeper who said he hated the macaques because you had to go full hazmat suit to clean their compounds and it was awful in the summer. Suddenly the snow monkeys at the Lincoln Park Zoo seemed a lot less cute.
posted by srboisvert at 8:20 AM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Couldja teach the monkeys how to kill pythons?

(ok, those movies, maybe not the best idea)
posted by sammyo at 8:22 AM on November 7, 2019 [3 favorites]

Couldja teach the monkeys how to kill pythons?

And the dog-sized iguanas?
posted by the christopher hundreds at 8:29 AM on November 7, 2019

I stayed in Silver Springs last year in hopes of seeing these guys! No sightings, alas, of either monkeys or manatees (on the hunt for 'keys and 'tees, my partner and I muttered as we stalked through the park), though others we spoke to that day were more lucky. Didn't know about the herpes B or the projected population growth--I suppose that changes the calculation somewhat on a revisit.

There are also the monkeys of Dania Beach in South Florida, which I also have not yet successfully spotted despite languidly creeping around a dumpster behind an old Knights Inn that is a supposed hot spot for the animals. Alas, alas. I'll see a Florida monkey someday.

I too am fascinated by the hubris of those who continually believe they will have some control over how a non-native species adapts to a new environment. You guys! The same thing happens every time! Stop doing the thing! Excited to learn of some more Florida arrogance from that article, gwint.
posted by youarenothere at 8:31 AM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

Couldja teach the monkeys how to kill pythons?

And the dog-sized iguanas?

Maybe they can take lessons from the toad-butchering rats of Australia?
posted by youarenothere at 8:35 AM on November 7, 2019 [1 favorite]

It would see that if there are only a few hundred animals this is the sort of thing that could be handled with hunting before their numbers explode.
posted by Mitheral at 1:00 PM on November 7, 2019

Although the Silver Springs monkeys aren’t connected to Tarzan (as noted above), there are other feral monkeys which are.
Weissmuller didn't just live here, though. He was part of a theme park called "Tropical Wonderland" in the 1950s. Tropical Wonderland, which was eventually renamed "Florida Wonderland," was located at the intersection of U.S. 1 and State Road 50. It touted Wild West shootouts, a train ride and a zoo featuring alligators, monkeys, lions and an elephant ... which met its demise when it got loose on U.S. 1 and was hit by a semi-truck.
Thanks to the failed Florida Wonderland theme park, monkeys were dumped in Titusville following its closure, according to North Brevard Historical Society records. The non-native primates roamed areas all around Sisson Road and the Enchanted Forest. Some old-timers even recalled seeing them found dead. Some could even be spotted today.
I actually saw some of these when I lived in Brevard Co. in the 1970s. Apparently, the last (dead) definitively identified monkey was collected in Titusville in 1990, but friends in the area say they are still around on Merritt Island and NW Titusville.
posted by sudogeek at 4:44 PM on November 7, 2019


The monkey urinated on him and disappeared.
posted by From Bklyn at 11:56 PM on November 7, 2019

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