When the news broke Wednesday that the rhesus macaque monkey that had been on the lam in Pinellas County for more than two years had been caught, many people breathed a sigh of relief.
But according to a local veterinarian who played an important role in capturing the runaway rhesus, not everyone is thrilled with the fact that the monkey is denied its freedom.
Don Woodman, owner of the Animal Hospital of Northwood in Safety Harbor, says he has received threatening and prank phone calls since the news of the monkey’s capture became public.
“We’ve been getting prank calls and threats, people saying vets are evil and asking why we wouldn’t let the monkey remain free,” Woodman said Thursday. “That’s the nature of people, to think he should be free. But I don’t understand why people think vets are going to hurt these creatures.”
Woodman said the capture of the monkey, nicknamed “Cornelius," was the end result of a long process that started almost three years ago with numerous failed attempts to apprehend the elusive creature.
He and trapper Vernon Yates, of Seminole, had been trying to capture the macaque without harming it. After the monkey bit a St. Petersburg woman earlier this month, Yates and Woodman began tracking him in her yard.
Woodman says it took three attempts to bring Cornelius down; the first dart missed him, the second dart didn’t have enough medication in it, but the third dart had the right mix of meds, and after a short chase, he finally fell and was captured.
“Theoretically it should have been easy, but out in the field, it’s not,” Woodman said.
The monkey spent a few hours at the animal hospital, where blood was drawn for tests to determine what kind of diseases it may be carrying, its blood cell count and condition of its vital organs.
From there the macaque was transferred to Yates’ facility, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, in Seminole, where it will be quarantined for 30 days while they attempt to find a proper home for it.
Woodman wants to reassure people that the creature will absolutely not be put down unless the tests determine it is carrying a serious disease, and it will not be given to a facility that wants to use it for publicity purposes.
"We hope to have a number of facilities that wish to give it a good home."
Woodman also says that he is not doing any of this for money or notoriety; in fact, he's paying for the blood tests and lab work himself. He's just glad the saga is finally over.
“I thank God we did catch him. If he stayed loose, he would have hurt somebody else, possibly a child, and there would have been an outcry to euthanize him. We did this so he wouldn't be euthanized."
“We’ve protected society and we’ve helped this animal,” he added. “It’s been very satisfying.”
- What Should Happen to Tampa Bay's Mystery Monkey?
If you've been following this story, we want to know: What do you think should happen to the runaway rhesus? Is life at a Florida animal sanctuary the right move, and can he readjust and flourish there? Does he belong in a zoo, or back out in the wild somewhere?
Post a comment below and join the conversation.