A tour guide is believed to have brought the creatures to the state decades ago, which is what sparked the infestation. Wildlife officials believe that 6 Rhesus monkeys, three of which were men, three of which were women, were brought to an Ocala park in the 1930s.
They were transported by Colonel Tooey, who had become fascinated by the creatures after watching a Tarzan film. However, Mr Tooey’s monkeys have since bred, and there are now over a 1000 monkeys living in the state, according to wildlife officials.
Around 700 of the monkeys have been caught in the last decade, and almost all of them tested positive for herpes-B virus. Despite capturing these animals, wildlife officials are still considering releasing a public health hazard warning residents of the monkeys.
Captain Tom O’Lenick, the current Silver River tour operator has defended transporting the Rhesus Monkeys. The 65-year-old has claimed that people actually love them.
O’Lenick stated, “Everybody who comes on the river for a tour wants to see the monkeys. From my point of view, as a naturalist, I think the planet changes naturally and species do move around, whether this is by man or other means.”
Originally, the monkeys were marooned on a small island, which is located near the Silver River. However, the creatures soon learned to swim and then started to wreak havoc across the state.
They have since been spotted hundreds of kilometres away, even in Jacksonville, Florida.
Graham McGeorge, a 42-year-old British wildlife photographer, has warned individuals who come into contact, “Just like any other wild animal you need to give them space.” The monkeys live near rivers, and normally eat spiders and dirt.
[Image via Sebastian Conway/Shutterstock]