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Over 1,000 Rhesus Monkeys on the Loose in Florida, Some Have Herpes

Update Date: Sep 14, 2013 01:04 AM EDT

Over a thousand rare wild monkeys - some carrying herpes - are on the loose in the sunshine state of Florida after a tour guide brought animals decades ago.

Wildlife officials said that three pairs of Rhesus monkeys were transported to a park near Ocala in the 1930s by tour operator Colonel Tooey after a "Tarzan" flick sparked a fascination with the creature, according to Fox News

The monkeys had been brought to the state in the 1930s, escaped and now are estimated at a population of more than 1,000 according to officials.

While hundreds have been caught, the remaining are considered a health risk. Current Silver River tour operator Captain Tom O'Lenick, 65, defended transporting the animals, claiming people love them.

"Everybody who comes on the river for a tour wants to see the monkeys," O'Lenick said.

"From my point of view, as a naturalist, I think the planet changes naturally and species do move around, whether that is by man or other means," he said.

The monkeys were first marooned on a small island near the Silver River. But the creatures learned to swim.

They have since been spotted hundreds of miles away, near Jacksonville, officials said.

"Just like any other wild animal you need to give them space," said British wildlife photographer Graham McGeorge, 42.

Those who are at the most risk to contract Herpes B  from the monkeys are people who come into contact with them on a daily basis. Herpes B is usually spread from the monkeys to humans through scratches, bites, or coming into contact with the bodily fluids of infected primates.

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