In a scenario worthy of a Magilla Gorilla
cartoon, a dope-fiend monkey is on the lam in Tampa Bay and has eluded capture for more than a year, despite being spotted by hundreds of people and shot at least a dozen times with tranquilizer darts.
"All we've done is manage to turn him into a drug addict," said lead trapper Vernon Yates, owner of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation in Seminole, Fla.
"I've darted him at least a dozen times myself; for whatever reason, the drugs don't seem to be affecting him. He manages to climb over fence after fence after fence and by the time you go to these people's houses and ask permission to go in the backyard, he's gone."
The monkey, thought to be a male rhesus macaque
about three years old, has been turning up in backyards and public places -- and evading trappers -- for months.
Where he's been spotted
The first published report came in January 2009, when the unnamed critter was first seen in Clearwater, FL. Most recently, the monkey (who really needs a name) popped up March 7 in a banyan tree in a swanky neighborhood in St. Petersburg, where a woman reportedly chased him with a banana
Read about more monkey sightings and see a video of the little fella after the jump.
Five days earlier he was spotted on the roof of the Bethel Community Baptist Church in another tony St. Pete suburb; as dozens of spectators, trappers, police officers and news media helicopters looked on, he scampered away yet again
, even as a pair of tranquilizer darts spread sweet bliss through his little monkey butt. Emily Nipps
, a reporter for the St. Pete Times
who's been covering the case for months, thinks the trappers charged with capturing the monkey are slacking off.
"I think they've kind of given up. I don't think they even responded to the latest monkey reports. I don't know how much they're really trying to catch this monkey."
Three Facebook pages and thousands of fans
The unnamed (seriously, people, this monkey needs
a name) primate has captured the attention of thousands of Tampa Bay residents, some of whom now birddog neighborhoods where he's been sighted in hopes of catching a glimpse. There are at least three Facebook pages devoted to the monkey, including one that purports to be the work of the simian himself,
a dubious claim that we hope is true.
Trappers have tried fruit-baited cages and upping the dosage of the monkey's preferred tranquilizer, but to no avail. Yates said the next move in this seemingly endless game of one-upmanship is changing the drug -- kind of like bumping up from monkey morphine to monkey heroin.
Humans are the real threat
Yates' real concern is that the monkey will eventually get hurt.
"This monkey is no threat to humans, but I've seen news media put on experts that have come up with some off-the-wall, dumbass things -- he's full of hepatitis, how dangerous he is, he can shred you with his teeth -- all BS," Yates says. "I'm worried about the fear factor: if the monkey came up in your backyard and you were worried about disease or the monkey attacking you, you might take a shotgun and go blow his brains out."
Meanwhile, the monkey makes his way from neighborhood to neighborhood in Tampa Bay, often leaving behind a trail of peelings from purloined oranges as proof he was there. He never shows up in the same place twice -- and never will, Yates said. Rhesus monkeys are programmed by nature to stay on the move so predators -- like leopards, trappers and news reporters -- can't predict where they'll turn up.
This particular monkey pops up in backyards and city streets, then typically climbs a tree and waits for wildlife officials to arrive with his fix. Once he gets his dose, he scampers away and looks for somewhere to hole up until the jones kicks in again.
The story behind the primate
The monkey most likely came from a troop that was established roughly 75 years ago as a tourist attraction near Silver Springs
. Since Florida has no native primates, park owners created a small colony on an island in the Silver River
. Turns out monkeys can swim. Who knew? Before long they'd moved to the nearby jungle and established a breeding colony that today numbers an estimated 1,000.
This monkey likely challenged the troop's alpha male
in a power struggle that got him banished, Yates says. He's now roaming Tampa Bay looking for another troop to join -- or at least another monkey to hook up with.