Florida does not have a native monkey species, but, we do have wild monkeys. We visit and hike Silver Springs frequently, but never saw the Rhesus until 2018. After that one sighting, which I photographed and was one of the first posts in this blog, we didn’t see any of them again until last week.
We hear a lot of stories about the origin of these monkeys, the Rhesus macaques, which live wild in Silver Springs Park near Ocala and the surrounding forest areas. Most agree that the original six were imported in the 1930s and released to add to the glass bottomed boat tourist attraction. Put on one of the small islands for the enjoyment of the tourists passing in boats, they instead swam to the main shore and took up residence in the forest. Some say that the filming of the Tarzan movies at Silver Springs spurred the original release, and it likely made good promotional material for the stories promoting the movie, but as the Rhesus never appeared in any of the movies the tourist attraction story is more likely.
These two, we think young males, sat on the railing of the Ross Allen Boardwalk where it crosses the Silver River, watching us approach. We continued to walk but slowed down, and wondered if we needed to turn around. They slowly rose to all fours, and gracefully sauntered along the railing away from us. We continued to walk, and they turned to right as we came to the loop. They walked further down, turned, sat down, and just watched us. We stood and observed them for a few minutes, then went to the left and walked the loop from that direction. By the time we reached the area we last saw them, they were hidden somewhere in the forest.
Signs are everywhere about the Rhesus, with warnings about approaching them or feeding them. They are wild, they have bitten people before who approached and tried to feed them, so like any other wild animal just enjoy them from a distance.