All kidding aside, this monkey business is serious
Thursday, April 01, 2010
Media contact: Gary Morse, 863-648-3200
The elusive rhesus macaque monkey darting around
the Tampa Bay area and cheered on by 60,000 Facebook fans is
generating a lot of banter. However, wildlife officials
caution that this monkey is highly stressed and potentially very
dangerous, and is itself in danger.
According to the Florida Fish and Wildlife
Conservation Commission (FWC), rhesus macaques are bad-tempered,
powerful monkeys that, if cornered, can injure or even kill an
adult human. Of particular concern to wildlife officials is
that some area residents are not taking these warnings seriously
and are tempting fate by trying to feed or catch this animal with
their hands - a very risky and foolish undertaking, according to
The Centers for Disease Control reports that
roughly 80 percent of rhesus macaques carry the simian herpes-B
virus. If the animal bites, scratches or even spits on you
(one of many bad habits this species exhibits), you may become
infected. If infected with this virus, there's an 80-percent
chance you will die from an untreated wound. Even a treated
wound can be fatal.
"Although this marauding monkey makes for humorous
reading and anecdotes around the water cooler, people should not
lose sight of what's best for the animal and for public safety,"
said Dr. David Murphy, staff veterinarian at Tampa's Lowry Park
According to the FWC, feeding wildlife is the
primary factor causing wildlife to destroy property and to attack
pets and humans. Monkeys are no exception.
"Encouraging this animal to approach or remain
close to humans for any reason can lead to a defensive attack if
the animal feels trapped or otherwise threatened by miscued human
body language," said Capt. John West, who deals with captive
wildlife issues for the FWC's Division of Law Enforcement.
Also in doubt is the monkey's ability to continue
to live on its own in a hostile, urban environment. Rhesus
macaques have a highly evolved society where the health and
well-being of each individual is largely dependent on the
cooperation of other troop members, especially for defense
purposes. A lone rhesus macaque stands little chance for
long-term survival outside its troop. Predation on a lone
macaque by urban coyotes, bobcats or neighborhood dogs is a
distinct possibility. Other factors such as high-volume
traffic, high-voltage power lines and other urban hazards add to
the mix of threats to the creature.
Monkeys in any situation are difficult to capture,
even for the most experienced experts, and the challenge is
magnified in a highly stressful urban setting. So far, this
animal has managed to avoid capture through sheer athleticism,
sharp eyesight, an apparently intuitive understanding of the
dangers of crossing the street and a lot of luck. Such luck,
however, is not likely to continue indefinitely.
"We understand the need for comic relief, as well
as the compassion people feel for this engaging creature.
Those things, however, are not of primary concern to our
agency. Rather, it's how people act upon those feelings that
can cause serious consequences to those in direct contact with the
monkey," said Gary Morse, spokesman for the FWC. "This
animal's only real chance for survival is to be caught and then
cared for by an accredited facility, where it can interact with
other members of its own kind."
The FWC urges those who see this monkey not to
feed, try to capture or interact with it in any way. If you spot
this animal, return to the safety of a building or your vehicle and
immediately call the FWC's Wildlife Alert Hotline at 888-404-3922,
and leave the monkey business to the FWC.