Scientist concerned about vervet monkeys missing from Dania Beach colony

(WSVN) - There is a unique wild monkey population near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, but some of the monkeys have been illegally trapped and are missing. 7’s Brian Entin has our special report: Monkey Misery.

It is one of those “Only in South Florida” sightings.

A group of about 40 wild vervet monkeys live near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport.

They’ve been here for decades ever since their ancestors escaped from the Dania Beach Chimpanzee Farm in the 1940s.

For the most part, they don’t bother anyone.

Dr. Missy Williams, studies vervet monkeys: “We have had zero reports of property damage and zero reports of aggression.”

Biologist Dr. Missy Williams studies the monkeys and is worried because witnesses have seen people trapping them.

This monkey — believed to be from the Dania Beach group — was found living in a bird cage in Hialeah, and this monkey, named Spock, went missing from the colony at the end of last year.

Dr. Missy Williams: “We have noticed that three individuals have gone missing from the population, and all three, we suspect, have been taken by illegal poachers in the Dania Beach area.”

This is the last video of the monkey named Spock before he disappeared.

It shows a worker in a warehouse near the airport feeding him nuts, but Dr. Williams says managers were not happy when Spock kept showing up for food, so they trapped him.

At first, Dr. Williams heard that Spock was killed, but then, good news, she got a call that he might be alive living in the backyard of a huge Miami-Dade County home, so we’re going to check it out.

Driving through the front gates, it looks like the other estates in the neighborhood, but the backyard is more like a zoo with nearly 100 monkeys, and tucked in a back corner, we find Spock alone inside this cage.

Brianna Perez, rescues monkeys: “I think it’s really sad that he does have a family, and he does have his own colony, and we would love for him to go back to his family and not just be alone.”

Brianna Perez and her family own the compound and work with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission to rescue monkeys living with people who don’t have permits.

Brianna Perez: “My dad ended up getting a phone call, and he came and rescued the monkey because he was afraid that he was going to end up dying, so we got him and immediately put him in a cage and started feeding him.”

Brianna would love to give Spock to Dr. Williams, so he can get back to his family, but legally, she can’t.

The wild monkeys are classified by the state as “non-native,” so it’s illegal for them to be returned and set free, and FWC keeps track of the monkeys in captivity.

Brian Entin: “Does it make you upset to not be able to bring him back?”

Dr. Missy Williams: “Yeah, I think it’s frustrating because vervets do live in a very social family setting, and they develop attachments like you or I would with our own families, so for him to be taken from his family and put into an environment which is foreign to him is probably disconcerting for him as well.”

Dr. Williams is hoping to get special permission from FWC to return Spock to Dania Beach, but for now, he’s stuck in this cage, and it’s unclear whether he will ever be reunited with his family.

Because of the monkey poaching, security cameras have been installed in the area where the monkeys inhabit.

We reached out to FWC, but they have not responded to calls or emails.

Vervet Project Dania Beach
www.vervetproject.com/

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