Florida, long imperiled by invasive species such as Burmese pythons (which have overtaken the Everglades) and Cuban tree frogs, it now facing a new danger from Rhesus monkeys infected with herpes.
According to the State’s Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, there are now approximately 1,000 wild Rhesus monkeys living in Florida, descendants of a handful of primates introduced there in the 1930;s by "Colonel" Tooey, a tour operator looking to provide tourists with a “Tarzan-inspired experience of Florida's Silver River State Park.”.
While Tooey sought to keep his monkeys isolated on an island, many of them eventually learned to swin and ended up on the mainland all the way down as far as Jacksonville, severlal hundreds of miles away from their original site.
Wildlife officials report that the majority of the monkeys taken into custody have tested positive for the Herpes B virus, and declared the entire colony a public health hazard, noting that the animals, which often act aggressively toward people, might spread the disease or cause other injuries to them. As a result, they are warning both natives and tourists to stay away from them.
Although the Rhesus monkeys don’t seem to display and serious symptoms from the Herpes B, the virus can cause neurological impairment or fatal encephalomyelitis, an inflammation of the brain and spinal cord in humans.
Readers can learn more about Herpes B by contacting the CDC at 1600 Clifton Rd., Atlanta, GA 30333 800 232-4636.