After three years of having the run of Tampa Bay, a Rhesus Macaque, usually known as “Mystery Monkey” or “Monk,” was finally captured by wildlife agents.
When the monkey first showed up in 2009, no one knew where it came from, as The New York Times Magazine reported this summer:
No pet macaques were reported missing around Tampa Bay — there wasn’t even anyone licensed to own one in the immediate area … Escaped pet monkeys tend to cower and stumble once they’re out in the unfamiliar urban environment, racing into traffic or frying themselves in power lines. But as [animal trapper Vernon] Yates loaded a tranquilizer dart into his rifle, this animal jolted awake, swung out of the canopy and hit the ground running … “There’s no way to describe how intelligent this thing is,” he told me recently.
The going theory at Florida’s state wildlife commission was that it had come from a pack of wild macaques that live in Silver River State Park, about 100 miles from Tampa. It’s not clear how Monk would have traveled that distance, but he probably hitched a ride with a truck driver. Pretty sure that’s historically how monkeys get around.
For years, the monkey roamed around the city, making enemies, making friends, and always eluding capture. Then, earlier this month, it bit somebody.
All of sudden, the monkey-does-Tampa thing wasn’t so cute anymore. The monkey was a criminal who needed to be caught. But he was also a criminal who was clever enough to steal the bananas out of traps set for him and remain at large.
CBS News reports that, in the end, officials staged a five-hour stake out near a wooded area the monkey was known to frequent:
“We concealed ourselves in the area,” said Baryl Martin, spokesperson for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Commission, “and we waited for the monkey to approach.”
When he showed up, they got him. At least, they thought they did, when a tranquilizer dart hit home. But it wasn’t that easy. As The New York Times reports, Monk has spent the last few years building up an immunity to tranquilizer darts:
At least a dozen times through the years, the Mystery Monkey was pierced with tranquilizer darts. But he always slipped away — over a fence, up a tree, across roof tops, into the forest.
This time, too, the monkey thought it could get away. CBS:
The monkey made a run for it.
“When we got closer it tried to evade us,” Martin said. “We chased it about 50 to 100 yards.”
The trio briefly chased the monkey through the woods before Yates grabbed it with his hand and a catch pole.
Right now, Monk is in the big house (a.k.a. quarantine at the veterinarian’s office). The wildlife commission’s planning on finding a new home for him, one with other monkeys, where he can chill out for awhile and tell stories of his life on the lam. On the outside, though, he still has supporters. The NYT:
That is because the Mystery Monkey, in his wiliness and determination to elude the authorities, represented an irresistible yearning for freedom. “Go, Monkey, Go” was his slogan.
“My freedom has been taken from me,” his Facebook page reads.
We’re printing up the “Free Monk” T-shirts now.
Rogue monkey finally caught in Florida, CBS News.
Get Grist in your inbox