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Monkey business: researchers find origins of Florida colony


A colony of monkeys has lived in urban South Florida for about 70 years, near jets taking off from a nearby airport and fuel tanks.

Nobody was quite sure where they came from. Until now.

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Florida Atlantic University researchers say they traced the colony’s origins back to Dania Chimpanzee Farm. The South Florida SunSentinel reported Wednesday that there was a monkey escape from the farm in 1948, in which most of the monkeys were recaptured. But not all of them.

The rest disappeared into a mangrove swamp where their descendants now live. The FAU team said the colony currently has around 41 members.

The FAU researchers followed the genetics of the monkeys and came to the conclusion that they were brought to Florida from Africa. The monkeys were sold primarily for medical and military research.

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One thing is certain: the residents of the Dania Beach area where the monkeys live are extremely protective.

“The community still loves her,” said Deborah “Missy” Williams, lead author of the study, who works in FAU’s Department of Life Sciences. “You take care of her. You want her to be protected.”

Williams started the Dania Beach Vervet Project to protect them and is trying to raise money to buy land that will serve as a sanctuary.

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