Look Out for That…Monkey?

While Florida is most frequently known for its large alligator population, or as a great place to see sea turtles begin their journey to life in the ocean, there’s another species just as captivating- Rhesus macaques, a.k.a. Rhesus monkeys.

Want to know more?

1. How did they get here?

Rhesus monkeys actually originated in Asia. Legend has it that the monkeys arrived in Florida in the 1930s for the filming of Tarzan Finds A Son. The movie was filmed nearby what is now Silver Springs State Park, and after filming the monkeys were released into the wild.

Thanks to University of Florida research, we know now that this story is in fact, just folklore. Rhesus monkeys inhabited Silver Springs prior to filming, and the film itself never featured any rhesus macaques. Instead, the rhesus macaque population in Florida can be attributed to Colonel Tooey, manager of a 1930s glass bottom boat operation in the area.

It is thought that Colonel Tooey released what he thought were squirrel monkeys, but actually were six rhesus monkeys. Tooey released the monkeys on an island in Silver River to attract more tourists to the area. What he didn’t know was that rhesus monkeys are proficient swimmers. It wasn’t long before the monkeys swam off the island and began populating surrounding forests, increasing in number over time. In 1948, in an effort to further increase their population, Colonel Tooey released six more rhesus macaques in the area. Today it is estimated that nearly 200 rhesus macaques call the Silver Springs area home, but the monkeys have also been seen up to 100 miles from Silver Springs.

2. Things to know before visiting

Want to visit the Silver Springs area and see the monkeys for yourself? That’s totally an option! Here are a few things to know before you go.

Rhesus monkeys can become very aggressive when it comes to food, and it is actually illegal to feed them. For these reasons, visitors are advised not to take food near any area(s) where rhesus monkeys may be present. Visitors should also use caution and should never approach the monkeys or attempt to interact with the monkeys.

For the best chance of seeing the rhesus macaques, kayak or canoe the Silver Springs River. If you want a view of what’s happening under water also, check out the glass bottom boat tours that depart daily. Glass bottom boat tours depart every 30-45 minutes from 10am-4pm from Silver Springs State Park.