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Wednesday, April 23, 2008

The Great Monkey Escape

A dozen Patas monkeys escaped the Safari Wild preserve in Polk County, which is a wildlife preserve in Florida. Those monkeys include mature males, reproducing females and a dominant troop leader.
Enough ingredients to start their own colony in the wild.

Patas monkeys are no threat to the people in Florida and they made their great daring escape by doing something that was generally believed they wouldn't do-- they swam. The left their beautiful island home and swam right across the pond.

Their keepers never thought the patases would brave the dark waters of an 8-foot-deep, 60-foot-wide moat around their 1-acre island preserve north of Lakeland. But they did. Every last one of them went into the drink and over a wall.

This great monkey escape did not surprise everyone though, as a veterinarian, Mark Wilson, who runs the Florida Teaching Zoo in Bushnell and who imports patas monkeys for placement in preserves and zoos, points out, these patas monkeys were wild and not born in captivity. That means the natural fear they would have had of the dark waters of an 8-foot-deep, 60-foot-wide moat around their 1-acre island preserve north of Lakeland, didn't exist as is evidenced by every one of the patas, going into the water, swam and went over the wall.

Wilson says, "They have their wild instincts intact. It probably never occurred to them not to swim out", he then continued with, "They probably looked over the fence and said, 'Hmmm, this is home.' They are wild. They know how to forage for food and they know how to avoid predators."

This colony was taken from the wilds of Puerto Rico, where their numbers have grown rapidly, and they faced euthanasia. Wilson's group intervened and brought them to the preserve. The monkeys arrived as a group Thursday, and after two days of reconnaissance, they left as a group, led by a female with a baby on her back.

"They're very social," Salisbury said.

Being that they are no threat to human and carry no diseases, the desire to capture them and bring them back to the preserve stems from fear that predators will harm them when they were originally brought to the wildlife preserve to save them.

You can find out more about the Patas monkey from the National Primate Research Center, University of Wisconsin, Madison.