A colony of wild monkeys at Dania Beach may soon have a permanent home, with fencing, medical care and regular meals.
But the creation of a monkey sanctuary east of Fort Lauderdale airport could mark the beginning of the end of a strange population of wildlife that has survived on a swamp forest patch for more than 70 years. .
Dania Beach Vervet Project, a non-profit organization, is negotiating with Hertz Corp. to rent 3.75 acres next to a car rental center to house 17 of the group’s approximately 45 African Vervet monkeys. With a fenced facility, they could legally take care of the monkeys, provide them with food and veterinary care, which would not otherwise be possible under state law since it is a non-species. indigenous.
“The idea is to keep monkeys out of urban spaces,” said Deborah “Missy” Williams, a biologist who wrote about the monkey colony in her doctorate. thesis at Florida Atlantic University and head of the group. “They are electrocuted, they get hit by cars, people try to mistake them for pets.”
The monkeys, descendants of a group that escaped from a breeding operation in the 1940s, can be seen on the edge of a mangrove forest between US 1 and Port Everglades, where they enjoy the distributions of peanuts, fruit and candy of their human admirers.
The 17 monkeys that would go to the sanctuary are one of the four groups of the population. The plan calls for placing them in a quarter-acre enclosure, with travel tubes that allow them to explore the entire sanctuary site.
The plan also calls for them to be sterilized. Williams said that was not ideal and that some in his group are unhappy with the colony’s impending decline. But she said it would be impossible to find a home for additional monkeys, as it is illegal to release them into the wild and zoos are not interested in such a common species.
“If we ended up with a surplus of animals it would be difficult to place them,” she said. “They want the monkeys to be in Dania forever. And I appreciate that. It’s just the welfare issues that outweigh that.”
In the past year, the colony has lost more than 10 members due to car strikes, electrocutions on power lines, injuries that could have been treated and illegal trapping of pets.
“If they can live the rest of their lives in this habitat that is now theirs, that would be ideal,” said Julie Abolafia, managing director of Meridian Commercial, a real estate company, which has volunteered to help the organization of the monkeys to get the lease. .
Hertz has agreed to a long-term lease in principle, Williams said, and they are currently negotiating the details. The rent has not been fixed. The nonprofit group began raising funds to pay for the cost, as well as the cost of caring for the monkeys. They set up a fundraising site.
The policy of sterilization means that the population of the sanctuary will inevitably decrease. The other bands of monkeys could eventually enter as well, Williams said, but not for years.
“There will be three other social groups that will still be free there,” she said. “There is always the possibility for this group to exist in the future. These are just the ones that we put in the sanctuary will not contribute to future generations.”
Even without the sterilization of the monkeys at the sanctuary, Williams said, the colony’s long-term outlook is rather bleak. Computer programs that assess the viability of a population, examining factors such as age distribution and death rates, predict colony extinction over the next 100 years.
For the monkeys, however, the future of the colony may not be so important. Their ancestors escaped from the Dania Chimpanzee Farm, which imported monkeys to the United States for use in laboratories. Although they have no way of knowing their original fate, they would probably rather live in sunny Florida.
Study confirms origin of vervet monkeys living near urban airport for decades
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