Study finds half of the monkeys in Silver Springs carry herpes B virus
For years, people from all over to come to Silver Springs to see the monkeys roaming the trees. But now, what was a tourist attraction, some wildlife managers are saying could be a danger.
“We were interested in this population because there is a bit of a mystery about rhesus macaques and herpes b virus,” said Dr. Samantha Wisely of the UF Department Of Wildlife Ecology And Conservation.
That mystery being, herpes B is a deadly virus, but people have only been infected and died when they were exposed to the virus by animals in captivity.
“There is a low risk of transmission,” Wisely said. “Given that we’ve never seen it transmitted in the wild. But if it were transmitted, there are huge consequences. Fifty percent of the time it’s fatal.”
Fifty percent of the monkeys studied in Silver Springs tested positive for the virus, and up to 14 percent are infectious.
“Saliva, urine and fesses are where the virus is shed,” Wisely said. “And so fesses that’s in the park or if they are interacting with an animal and is scratched or bitten, they will absolutely need to seek medical attention. ”
“People just don’t understand that wildlife…the first word is wild,” said charter boat captain Tom O’Lenicks.
Captain Tom O’lenicks has chartered tourists through Silver Springs for over three decades.
On his tours, he makes sure to answer the one question everyone is asking…’just where did they come from?’
“Captain Colonel Tooey, in a reaction to the wildlife and exotics that were used in the Tarzan films done at Silver Springs took it on his own to bring in three couples of the monkeys in 1937 and establish them on an island,” O’Lenicks said.
But Captain Tooey did not realize one thing.
“He put them on an island thinking that’s where they would stay,” Wisely said.” “But they immediately got into the water and swam away.”
The monkeys continue to spread today. Dr. Wisely says they have been found as far as Tallahassee, Sarasota, Orlando and Tampa…well over 100 miles away.
“There’s no control they have no predators,” Wisely said.