Tuesday, 23 February 2016

Florida's monkey river

Anthropologists studied human interaction with a colony of feral rhesus macaques living on the Silver River in central Florida

Date: February 19, 2016
Source: San Diego State University

A colony of feral rhesus macaques calls the banks of the Silver River in Silver Springs State Park in central Florida its home. The monkeys are part of a larger feral population living throughout the Cross Florida Greenway. Many locals enjoy having the monkeys in the park, but wildlife officials are concerned about overpopulation caused by human feeding, the nonnative animals' ecological impact and the potential for interspecies disease transmission. A study released this week in the journal Primates by anthropologists at San Diego State University has found that the park's macaque population is smaller than many previous estimates and that the vast majority of the monkeys' diets come from environmental--not human-given--food.

No one knows exactly how or when the monkeys, which are native to southern and southeast Asia, were introduced to the central Florida wetlands, but they have lived in the region's wetland parks for decades and have adapted to the environment. Over the years, population numbers have waxed and waned due largely to intermittent trapping efforts. Their presence has been contentious.

"The local authorities, like the Fish and Wildlife Service, have been less thrilled with the monkeys," said SDSU anthropologist Erin Riley, one of the paper's authors. "Their purview is to maintain a natural environment, and these animals are not natural to this area. They have concerns about the local ecological impact of these animals, and then there are also health issues if people interface and get close to them."

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