Wild Rhesus Macaque

Rhesus Macaques are Asian, Old World monkeys. Their natural range includes Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, Southeast Asia, and China. A few troops of introduced rhesus macaques now live wild in Florida. These intelligent animals can adapt to many habitats, and some can even become accustomed to living in human communities. This is most common in India, where Hindus regard the animals as sacred and usually leave them undisturbed.

Diet: The rhesus macaque's typical diet includes roots, fruit, seeds, and bark, but also insects and small animals. They live in active, noisy troops that can include up to 200 animals. Though these monkeys are good climbers (and swimmers), troops spend a lot of time on the ground. Males are the dominant sex, but they do not remain with troops permanently, so female macaques lead these communities. Because troops include multiple mature males and females, their members are sexually promiscuous. Females usually produce one young each year, which will be raised by its mother within the very social environment of the troop.

Silver River Florida

A colony of rhesus macaques was established around Silver Springs in Florida around the spring of 1938. The monkeys were released by tour boat operator Colonel Tooey to enhance his Jungle Cruise ride. A traditional story that the monkeys were released for scenery enhancement in the Tarzan movies that were filmed at that location is false, as the only Tarzan movie filmed in the area, 1939's Tarzan Finds a Son! contains no rhesus macaques, in part because of the species' bad temperament. The monkeys continue to thrive along the Silver River to this day.

Southern Florida

Various colonies of rhesus and other monkey species, such as common squirrel monkeys and vervet monkeys, have been found in southern Florida. They are thought to have gained freedom after the zoo and wildlife park facilities were destroyed in hurricanes, most notably Hurricane Andrew.

As of September 12, 2013, more than 1,000 rhesus macaques live in the state; officials have caught more than 700 of the monkeys in the past decade. Most of the captured monkeys tested positive for herpes B virus. Wildlife officials consider the animals a public health hazard.