The Mystery Monkey of Tampa


The New York Times has a great story about a monkey who’s been on the loose in the area around Tampa, Florida, for the last 3 years or so, despite numerous efforts to capture it. The monkey, known as the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay, has become quite a local hero, with people doing everything they can to help the monkey out:

At his desk, Yates unfolded a map of Tampa Bay. But he found he had to flip the map over, then consult other maps, at different scales, to trace the macaque’s entire odyssey. “It’s an amazing feat, when you think about his travels,” he said. Since 2009, Yates estimates that he has gone after the animal on roughly 100 different occasions. The monkey was his white whale. He claimed to have darted it at least a dozen times, steadily upping the tranquilizer dosage, to no avail. The animal is too wily — it retreats into the woods and sleeps off the drug. A few times, the monkey stared Yates right in the eye and pulled the dart out.

For the last two years, the macaque seems to have lingered in the same area of South St. Petersburg, ranging between a bulbous peninsula and the small island of Coquina Key, about two miles away. Yates still received calls about the animal — one came in the previous week. But the trail went cold a long time ago. Sightings were seldom reported now. As a woman on Coquina Key named Rosalie Broten told me: “Nobody wants the monkey to be captured. Everybody wants it to be free.”

The citizenry of Tampa Bay was adamantly pro-monkey. People had long been abetting the animal, leaving fruit plates on their patios. A few people, one F.W.C. officer told me, called the agency’s monkey hot line to report that they’d seen the macaque several hours or even a couple of days earlier — offering totally useless intelligence, in other words, presumably just to stick their thumbs in the government’s eye. The Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay, as people called it, had very quickly become a celebrity. There were at least two styles of Mystery Monkey T-shirts on offer, and a catchphrase: Go, Monkey, Go. As the macaque passed through the town of Oldsmar, a self-storage facility threw the monkey’s picture on a digital billboard with the message: “Stay Free Mystery Monkey.” And a Facebook page for the animal got 82,000 likes. “The taxpaying citizens of Tampa have been driven bananas by the out-of-touch political establishment,” the monkey wrote on its blog at the end of 2010, announcing its run for mayor.

The article is full of great quotes, like “[a]t the height of Mystery Monkey mania, he received death threats from pro-monkey radicals” and “[t]his is not the first time that monkeys have incited a minor populist uprising in Florida.” Go Monkey Go!

What’s a Monkey to Do in Tampa?   [NewYorkTimes]



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