A colony of Rhesus monkeys in Florida’s Silver River State Park tested positive for the Herpes B virus and have been declared a public health hazard, reports the NY Post.
“Colonel” Tooey, a tour boat operator, founded the Silver River colony in 1939 to enhance the realism of his “Jungle Cruise,” reports Raw Story. The monkeys, who are now feral, have since learned how to swim and are now potentially a threat to human neighborhoods.
While the Herpes B virus does not cause serious symptoms in the feral monkeys, in humans, being infected can lead to “hyperesthesias, ataxia, diplopia, agitation, ascending flaccid paralysis and death.”
Read more at the NY Post:
State officials have caught more than 700 of the monkeys in the past decade — most of which tested positive for the herpes-B virus.
Wildlife officials now consider the monkeys a public health hazard.
Current Silver River tour operator Captain Tom O’Lenick, 65, defended transporting the animals, claiming people love them.
“Everybody who comes on the river for a tour wants to see the monkeys,” O’Lenick said.
“From my point of view, as a naturalist, I think the planet changes naturally and species do move around, whether that is by man or other means,” he said.
The monkeys were first marooned on a small island near the Silver River. But the creatures learned to swim.
They have since been spotted hundreds of miles away, near Jacksonville, officials said.
See the Rhesus monkeys in action below: