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Wild, Herpes-Infected Monkeys Have Arrived

Rhesus macaque monkeys have arrived in northeast Florida
By Neal Colgrass,  Newser Staff
Posted Feb 2, 2020 12:50 PM CST
In this Friday, Nov. 10, 2017 photo, a rhesus macaques monkey observes kayakers as they navigate along the Silver River in Silver Springs, Fla.   (AP Photo/John Raoux)

(Newser) – A species of herpes-infected wild monkeys are roaming around part of northern Florida for the first time, First Coast News reports. Authorities are warning residents of the First Coast—a northeast region along the Atlantic—as grainy eyewitness pics and videos of rhesus macaque monkeys are getting around, "The potential ramifications are really dire," says University of Florida primate scientist Steve Johnson. "A big male like the one in that video in Jacksonville—that's an extremely strong, potentially dangerous animal." A Florida Fish and Wildlife official concurs, saying the monkeys pose a risk "without management action." But no one's tried to curb the monkeys' population since 2012.

A tour boat operator first brought rhesus macaques to the region in the late 1930s, leaving them on an island at Silver Springs State Park as a tourist attraction. "Guess what?" says Johnson. "They can swim." Indeed, they've roamed to Tampa and Apopka, but are now making their debut in and around Jacksonville. While attacks are rare, Newsweek reports on 18 known incidents of rhesus macaques scratching or biting Floridians. In all, the FWC says 50 people have gotten herpes B from macaques—21 cases were fatal—but none were caused by the wild variety. For now, the gray and brown monkeys with hairless, pink faces seem more a curiosity for First Coast residents. One had "sharp claws and stuff," says an eight-year-old. "My sister named him 'George.'" (Read more monkeys stories.)

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