Mystery Monkey captured: What's next for the rhesus macaque?

5:38 PM, Oct 24, 2012   |    comments
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Safety Harbor, Florida - Trapper Vernon Yates could hardly control his emotions on Wednesday after officials finally captured Tampa Bay's mystery monkey.

Photo Gallery: Pictures of the monkey on the loose
More Pictures: First pics of the monkey in captivity

Yates, the founder of Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation has been trying to capture the elusive rhesus macaque for nearly three years. He told 10 News he has a "love-hate relationship" with the monkey, but added he's had one goal all along.

"From day one, I was always in fear that he would get killed," Yates said of the monkey as he fought back tears.

"I didn't want to find him dead because a car (hit him). I didn't want to find him burned by a power line. I didn't want to find him shot and killed, because he bit somebody."

While the monkey has been the source of some late night TV jokes and even featured several times on Comedy Central, the attempts to capture the macaque have resulted in death threats against Yates. Threats by people who wanted the monkey to remain free or feared officials simply wanted to kill the animal.

Yates said that was never the case, but added if the monkey remained free the likelihood that he was somehow going to be killed only increased.

Two weeks ago the search for the macaque intensified after the monkey attacked a south St. Petersburg woman.

But now in custody, officials will begin testing the monkey for a host of viruses and check his overall health.

As Dr. Don Woodman of the Animal Hospital of Northwood in Safety Harbor prepared to draw blood on the monkey Wednesday, he explained to 10 News that the macaque was both older and heavier than officials initially thought.

His weight at one point was estimated at 25 pounds, but after his capture they've learned he is closer to 50 pounds. After examining the primate's teeth they also believe the monkey is closer to 10 years old, as opposed to 5 or 6-years of age.

Woodman was one of seven people trying to capture the monkey on Wednesday. Woodman says they waited in an area where the monkey has been known to appear for about three hours before he showed up.

Woodman says he shot the monkey with a tranquilizer dart twice before they were able to finally capture him.

Yates said he was glad the search was over. He said his goal now is to see if they can find a safe home for the monkey.

Woodman added it would be wonderful if someone like Busch Gardens or the Lowry Park Zoo would come forward and offer a home to the primate. 

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