Users Have Posted Photos of Wild Rhesus Macaque Monkeys in Central Florida — Details

They could become dangerous to the public.

Lauren Wellbank - Author

May 6 2024, Published 1:33 p.m. ET

Rhesus macaques monkey
Source: Getty Images

Residents and visitors of one central Florida town are being asked to stay extra vigilant after multiple wild monkey sightings. Orange City officials are among those saying that monkeys are being spotted in areas around town, and they're asking folks to be mindful of the primates because this species is known to become aggressive when fed.

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These sightings may not be news to anyone familiar with Florida's history, including the introduction of non-native monkeys to part of the state in the 1900s. Continue reading to learn more about the wild monkeys, including the risks officials say they could pose to the public.

Wild rhesus monkey looking at the camera.
Source: iStock
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Monkeys spotted in Florida are raising concerns.

Fox 35 Orlando first reported on April 29, 2024, that several monkey sightings were made in quick succession, including a report from a concerned father who said he spotted a monkey outside his daughter's high school. While he told Fox that he initially thought that the furry creature might be a cat, the man quickly realized that he was looking at something much more exotic instead.

On May 2, 2024, another resident told Fox 25 News she was left in a state of shock after watching a monkey cross the road as she was driving home from work. Officials have corroborated some of these stories thanks to video and photo evidence captured by witnesses. Linda Wasko, a primate expert with the nonprofit Primate Paradise, confirmed the monkeys were rhesus macaques to the news outlet.

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While undeniably cute, these monkeys do pose a threat to humans, since experts warn that they can get aggressive when fed. Not only that, but The Daytona Beach News-Journal says that they can also carry some potentially fatal diseases, like rabies, hepatitis B, and B herpes.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) told the newspaper that hepatitis B can cause death or severe brain damage if not treated quickly.

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Why are there monkeys in Florida?

The sightings, which include towns in Volusia, Groveland, and Clermont counties, likely have to do with one man from the 1930s. According to The Daytona Beach News Journal, Colonel Tooey introduced six monkeys to the Sunshine State hoping they would help boost business for his jungle boat tours. He's believed to have dropped them on an island in the Silver River.

Unfortunately for Tooey, the rhesus monkeys are adept swimmers, and they quickly left the island behind.

Tooey isn't the only one to be blamed for the state's increased monkey population. In the years after his failed plan, plenty more people brought wild monkeys to Florida, including a laboratory in the Florida Keys and an amusement park in Titusville.

If you spot one of these cuddly creatures in Florida, officials suggest you keep your distance and check with your local municipality to find out what (if any) reporting mandates they may have. And whatever you do, don't feed them! Otherwise, you may find yourself in some hot water with the law — feeding these wild primates can set you back up to $500 in fines and may even result in jail time — or worse.

Instead, keep yourself and the monkeys safe by staying as far away as possible.

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