By Ruthie DiTucci

In the 1930’s, a tour boat captain by the name of Colonel Tooey brought 6 rhesus macaques to create a Tarzan-like atmosphere to his Florida tourist boat business. What he did not know is that macaques are excellent swimmers. The monkeys swam to freedom and their numbers grew to the hundreds.

There are several species of monkeys living in groups in different geographical areas of Florida including in urban areas. We have chosen these YouTube videos because they feature different monkey species along with their locations throughout the State of Florida.

Florida’s warm climate allowed the monkeys to thrive and they quickly adapted to living on whatever was available. They are both herbivores and carnivores. The monkeys established a well-known population in Silver Springs.

As for recent sightings, it’s not uncommon to see these monkeys in Silver Springs State Park even today. They are a well-established, albeit an invasive species in the area. This is what you should be aware of:

  • Studies have shown that a significant portion, estimates range around 25-30%, of the rhesus macaques in Florida carry Herpes B.
  • This strain, unlike the human herpes viruses, can be deadly to humans if contracted through bites, scratches, or contact with bodily fluids.

It’s important to be cautious around these monkeys and avoid any close contact. Florida wildlife officials are also taking steps to manage the macaque population due to the health risks they pose. They may be cute to look at but they are generally aggressive and the strain of herpes B they carry can be fatal to humans.