Researchers find origins of a Florida colony

Verveta monkey takes fruit hanging on a fence behind a motel in Dania Beach, Florida in 2010. (Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald / Tribune News Service via Getty Images)

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

No one was entirely sure where they came from. So far.

Researchers at Florida Atlantic University say they trace the colony’s origins to the Danish Chimpanzee farm. La South Florida SunSentinel reported Wednesday that a monkey escaped from the farm in 1948, with most monkeys recaptured. But not all.

The rest disappeared into a mangrove swamp, where their descendants live today. The FAU team said the colony currently numbers about 41.

(Joe Rimkus Jr. / Miami Herald / Tribune News Service for Getty Images)

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

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

“The community still loves them,” said Deborah “Missy” Williams, lead author of the study, who is in the FAU’s Department of Biological Sciences. “They care about them. They want to protect them.”

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

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