TALLAHASSEE, Fla. – It’s official. Feeding wild monkeys in Florida is now illegal.
At its December 2017 meeting, the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission voted to prohibit the feeding of wild monkeys in order to promote greater public safety and decrease health concerns associated with these animals.
Under the amendment, which went into effect Feb. 11, free-roaming, non-human primates join coyotes, foxes, raccoons, bears, pelicans and sandhill cranes as species prohibited from feeding.
“The health and safety of the public is the commission’s No. 1 priority. Feeding wild monkeys creates an elevated risk to human health because it brings them into closer contact with people,” Dr. Thomas Eason, assistant executive director of the FWC, said. “This amended rule provides our staff the tools we need to effectively address a situation that can have serious consequences.”
As the population of wild monkeys has increased across Florida, public health and safety concerns have also increased due to public contact with them. In an effort to reduce the risk of public contact, the FWC adopted an amendment to the general prohibition rule to include wild monkeys.
Currently, there are three established species of wild monkeys in Florida: squirrel monkeys, vervet monkeys and rhesus macaques.
When the animals are fed by humans, they often develop a dependency on humans as a source of food and become territorial over the area where feeding occurs. That dependency can lead to increased aggression, which may result in injuries and spread of disease to humans.
The FWC said wild monkeys are documented carriers for various diseases.
Rhesus macaques can carry herpes B, a potentially fatal disease in humans if not treated immediately. While there are no documented cases of free-roaming macaques transmitting herpes B to humans in the wild in Florida, the risk for exposure will continue to grow as public contact with the animals increases.
“The implementation of this amendment allows FWC officers to better educate, inform and encourage the public to refrain from feeding these animals,” division director of the FWC Division of Law Enforcement Col. Curtis Brown said.
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