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calendar   Monday - February 03, 2020

Chinese Herpes Monkeys In Florida

Oh great, another invasive introduced species of Asian disease carrier. Where else? You knew it had to be Florida.

Florida Herpes Monkeys

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There’s a new resident in the Julington Creek neighborhood Jacksonville. Also in St. Johns, St. Augustine, Palatka, Welaka and Elkton.

In all, a dozen confirmed sightings of a feral, invasive monkey species: the rhesus macaque.

Videos and photographs – grainy and shaky, shot by homeowners – track the trail of a species expansion that experts call concerning and possibly dangerous.

“The potential ramifications are really dire,” University of Florida wildlife ecologist Dr. Steve Johnson told First Coat News. “A big male like the one in that video in Jacksonville—that’s an extremely strong, potentially dangerous animal.”

First Coast News obtained two videos and several photographs taken of the monkeys. Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission (FWC) officials call the reports credible, a likely expansion of the feral monkey population in Central Florida.

Rheseus macaques were first introduced to Silver Springs State Park in the late 1930s when a tour boat operator named Colonel Tooey released six of them on a manmade island as a tourist attraction. He released another six a decade later.

“Guess what?” laughs Johnson. “They can swim. They left the island.”

The monkeys have lived in the state park ever since – alternately mesmerizing and terrifying parkgoers. They’ve also ranged well beyond the park boundaries, with sightings far as Tampa and Apopka.

But this is the first time the monkeys have been reported on the First Coast.

Julington Creek resident Carrie Bennett is admittedly wary of the primates. “That is definitely a concern because I walk the dogs at like 5:30 in the morning and its pitch blackout,” she said. “If they bit me, if they came after and bit you, you don’t know what they have, what they’re carrying.”

In fact, the monkeys carry—and shed—the Herpes B virus, which can be fatal to humans. It’s what Johnson calls a “low risk, high consequence” possibility. The animals are also physically imposing with “strong arms, a very strong bite [and] large canine teeth.”

In the mid-1980s the population spiked to almost 400. Between 1984 and 2010, around 1,000 were trapped and killed in an attempt to control the population.

In the 1970s, a laboratory animal supply company introduced rhesus macaques to the Florida Keys, but they were removed between 1990 and 2000 after they ruined red mangroves, causing a loss of vegetation and eroded the shoreline.

Now, the animals, which can live for over three decades in the wild in groups of between 10 to 80 monkeys, have been spotted in the Julington Creek, St. Johns, St. Augustine, Palatka, Welaka and Elkton areas of northeast Florida, according to First Coast News.

Dr. Steve Johnson, an expert in primates at the University of Florida, told First Coast News, “The potential ramifications are really dire.”

I’d say, hunt them to extinction. At around 15-17lb full grown, they’re the perfect size game for a .22LR. Since they probably travel in packs, you’ll want a repeater with a large magazine and several buddies hunting with you.

OTOH, they could try trapping them and using them as python bait.


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Posted by Drew458   United States  on 02/03/2020 at 03:13 PM   
Filed Under: • AnimalsHealth-Medicine •  
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