Photo Fiona Sunquist ©
With Florida’s exotic tropical vegetation and ubiquitous palm trees, it seems as if monkeys should be listed among the state’s native wildlife. Well there are monkeys in Florida, but there shouldn’t be.
Monkeys don’t naturally occur in the United States. The closest they get is Mexico, where you might see spider monkeys and howler monkeys in and around the Yucatan.
But you can see free-ranging monkeys in Florida. A well-established population of rhesus monkeys has existed along the Silver River in Central Florida for nearly 80 years. Depending on who you believe, the monkeys were either escapees from the 1933 filming of a Tarzan movie or intentionally released by the manager of the jungle cruise boat ride at Silver Springs. By 1984, the upper Silver River population consisted of some 400 animals, with an unknown number along the Ocklawaha River. These monkeys forage for themselves on a wide variety of native plants and tourist handouts. If you see them while you are canoeing or kayaking these rivers – don’t try to feed them. No matter how cute they look, it’s against the law to feed them and they can be very aggressive, especially when it comes to food.
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