Mystery of Florida Airport Monkeys Has Been Solved

Colony near Fort Lauderdale airport descended from primates captured for medical research
By Liz MacGahan,  Newser Staff
Posted May 22, 2021 11:30 AM CDT
Airport Monkeys Descended From Daring Escape Artists
In this undated photo provided by Deborah Williams, a vervet monkey is seen in Dania Beach, Fla. Williams, is the lead author of a study that determined that a colony of monkeys in urban South Florida came from a group of monkeys that escaped from the Dania Chimpanzee Farm in 1948.   (Deborah Williams via AP)

This is what happily ever after looks like. For a monkey, anyway. About 70 years ago, a colony of monkeys showed up near the Fort Lauderdale airport, in a mostly urban area with a small forest wedged into it. They’re friendly, if you call stealing your snacks from your car friendly. (They really like bananas, the manager of a nearby parking lot told WKMG.) And they’re cute, posing for photos near airport parking and occasionally sauntering on pavement near a runway. Florida Atlantic University say there are about 40 of them. And they know where they came from, Forbes reports. Researchers say they’ve solved the mystery and the charming vervet monkeys are descended from a jailbreak at Dania Chimpanzee Farm in 1948.

The Florida monkeys are descended from primates captured in Africa and brought to the US to be sold for medical research. About 70 years ago, a whole crew of them broke out. Most were captured, but some escaped to a cozy patch of mangrove trees to live out their days in peace, and a little benign mischief. Lucky for them, vervet monkeys adapt well to most environments, and the trees near the airport were just fine for sleeping and snacking. Researchers at FAU used genetic data and a database of photographs to study the animals and determine where they came from. One of the researchers, Deborah “Missy” Williams, Ph.D., the lead author of the study, has set up a nonprofit, the Vervet Project, to raise money to protect the monkeys and possibly find them a more spacious, comfortable home.
(More weird news stories.)

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