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Monkeying aroundPosted Thursday, April 2, 2009, at 5:13 PM
These grandchildren stare in fascination, as wild monkeys watch them from the banks of the 5-mile long Silver River in northern Florida. Though the little critters are well-camoflaged, I see two of them, and there may be more that my old eyes can't detect!
I intend to keep her identity as deep and dark a secret as the Silver River in the moonlight... Of course, I chose the adorable photo above, because I love to see the grandchildren and the monkeys facing off across the water. There is such fascination on both sides of the water!
I find this topic very interesting. I'm probably the only person in the world who didn't know about these monkeys. As usual, I feel as if I've been living under a rock.
Turns out that the little exotic critters have been living on the Silver River for about 70 years. Two theories for their existance are told: 1) A Colonel Tooley released them in the 1930's to enhance his Jungle Cruise boat ride, planning for them to stay on an island. They didn't. 2) They escaped during the filming of a Tarzan movie. According to one source, they've been reduced from a high of 185 in the mid-80's, but I couldn't find a definite population figure for the present.
Tourists are strictly prohibited from feeding the monkeys, but sometimes the monkeys take matters into their own hands. My blogger friend tells of some friends who had a picnic on their boat, only to turn around and see the monkeys sitting in the boat, eating sandwiches!
"There is always a sentry or two, guarding the troops," adds our anonymous Floridian.
The no-feeding rule has its reasons: Bob LaMont, manager of the 11-year-old park, says, "They don't belong here. They're a hazard to people on the river (potentially through bites and disease)."
A spokesman for the Department of Environmental Protection, parent agency of the state park, says that the monkey population is "being controlled, not eliminated."
Our good Florida blogger buddy has been on the river many times, but the most unusual trip featured a rare sight that they haven't seen since:
"Hundreds of them were crossing the river--headed for something! They were swinging on the vines and then leaping to the bank. Some fell in the river and had to swim to the bank on the other side. Of all the times not to have a camera!"
This scene is easy to visualize, since I've seen a similar scene in "The Jungle Book." That's my favorite scene--where the monkeys steal Mowgli from Baloo the Bear, and he dances with that cool orangutang, King Louie (enter the voice of Satchmo Armstrong!) Ahh...a classic!
In googling the Silver River monkeys, I found an account of a monkey pack which escaped from their island habitat on Tuesday, April 22, 2008 in Lakeland, Florida. There were about a dozen patase monkeys, imported from Puerto Rico, where the population was so thick that they were going to be euthanized. The wildlife experts were convinced that the monkeys would not swim the 8-foot-deep, 60-foot-wide moat around their 1-acre island reserve --- but they were wrong! Turns out that monkeys born in the wild don't have the same inhibitions as their captive-born cousins.
"They have their wild instincts intact," said one of the vets who runs the Florida Teaching Zoo in Bushnell. "It probably never occurred to them not to swim out."
A group of patases in Naples has lived on one side of a moat for decades, never venturing into the water.
I've searched unsuccessfully for an update on the story of the escaping patase monkey pack. There was a mention on Topix that five of them had been caught, but I found nothing else. Word was that the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission was investigating the matter, and the monkey's keepers said they carried no diseases. They were microchipped, which is very reassuring... If you Florida residents find one of these cute little critters, you can take it to the vet to see if it belongs to anyone...
That's the extent of my monkey blog, folks. I'd say that these primates are just almost as interesting as goats! And, as for that photo, wow! A jungle with real monkeys! Now, that qualifies as a "Get Away"!
From the monkeyless hills of rural Tillman, this is your roving reporter Madeline, longing for exotic boat trips down a jungle river, lined with trees full of monkeys!
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Madeline (Giles) DeJournett is the Advance writer for the North Stoddard Countian. A retired high school English/history teacher, she spent 32 years teaching in 5 schools in Missouri and Alaska. These days, she lives quietly with a menagerie of wild and domestic animals on 52 secluded acres in the remote Tillman hills south of Advance. She graduated from Dexter High School in 1960 and Southeast Missouri State in 1964. She can be contacted at firstname.lastname@example.org or by phone at 573-722-5322.