The Herpes Infected Monkeys That Invaded Florida


Photo by Paolo Nicolello on Unsplash

“Florida has 29 electoral votes. And it has deadly escaped swimming rhesus macaque monkeys” — Comedian Andrew Heaton, Blaze Media

Florida has lots of problems. The way it sticks out in the ocean makes it an easy target for hurricanes. They can’t seem to count election ballots either, that appears to be an Achilles heel for them as well. Every other election involves some type of recount chaos. To add to Florida’s cast of odd problems, they appear to have a monkey issue too.

Silver Springs State Park and the surrounding area is flooded with rhesus macaque monkeys. How many? Nobody is sure, but they’re everywhere you look in the park. The monkeys have also been roaming to other areas.

The Orlando Sentinel reported in an article that some have seen monkeys up to 60 miles away from the park. Some trapping has been done, but due to public outcry, that stopped for the time being.

How Did Monkeys From Asia Get To Florida?

Colonel S. Tooey (1953) — photo from

In 1938 Colonel Tooey had a brilliant idea come to him. It was going to make him rich. He had heard rumors that a Tarzan movie would be filmed in Silver Springs State Park, Florida. It looked sort of like a jungle after all; it made sense. Tooey ran a tour boat operation on the Silver River and this idea came to him after he heard about the Tarzan movie. The river could be made to look like a jungle. People would come from miles around to see it.

All he needed was…monkeys.

He decided to make a tourist trap - a sort of theme park. It would be a jungle tour down the Silver River. The monkeys would be the ultimate selling feature. He made a little island with wooden shelters on a section of the river. He ordered the monkeys from a primate dealer in New York. Eventually, six rhesus macaques arrived and were put on the island.

Unfortunately, Tooey soon figured something out about these interesting primates. They can swim! In fact, they’re excellent swimmers. He stunningly watched them swim away from the island, taking his jungle tour dream with them. The monkeys escaped into the state forest and began making a home for the next 80 years.

How Dangerous Can A Monkey Be?

“They aren’t as afraid of humans as other animals, and they can be pretty nasty” — Erin Riley, anthropologist at San Diego State University

According to an article by National Geographic, the monkey population in Silver Springs carries a virus. 30% of the population has been found to carry the uncommon Herpes B virus. This virus can lead to brain swelling, which may cause brain damage and death. It’s very rare for a virus like this to be transmitted from a monkey to a human, but it’s a possibility. This is especially so if the human is introduced to body fluid from a monkey.

Insert awful joke here ____________

Although you may be tempted to fill your own joke into the space above (as I was), there have been recorded cases of transfers of this disease from monkeys to humans. In fact, one death was recorded in 1997.

Troops of these animals have also displayed aggressive behavior as well. Some park closures have occurred, one caused by a troop of monkeys chasing a family through the park. Another group of a few dozen or so monkeys raided an animal feeder in Marion County, south of Gainesville.

The Current Plan — No Plan

Trapping of the animals was the prime method for population control in the past. According to the University of Florida, between 1984 and 1986 almost 300 monkeys were captured. From 1998 to 2012 a little over 800 monkeys were captured. Several female monkeys were also sterilized to lower populations. However, the trapping process was stopped when residents learned monkeys were being sold to research labs.

For the time being, there is no current plan in place to deal with the exploding monkey population. It’s estimated that the population is growing by 11% per year and the entire population might double by 2022.

So, for the time being, it looks like Florida has a monkey problem. Beware flying feces and keep your bananas undercover.

Comments / 5

Published by

Work out fanatic, martial artist, student, MBA, and connoisseur of useless information. I try and work a combination of history and philosophy into modern day life. I can be interesting and awful at the same, but you'll generally learn something worthwhile when you donate some of your time to read my work.

Bucks County, PA

More from ErikBrown

Comments / 0