DANIA BEACH, Fla. – A colony of African vervet monkeys has lived in Dania Beach, near the Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport, for decades, but more people have been noticing them lately.
Missy Williams, of the Dania Beach Vervet Project, was able to create a sanctuary for the colony of 40 monkeys near the Park N’ Go, an off-airport parking operator.
Dave Winquist, the manager at Park N’Go, said the monkeys are regular friendly visitors, and they are always looking for something to eat. They really like bananas and peanuts, he said.
“They are all very nice,” Winquist said. “I have never had a problem with any of them.”
Hanging from a fence, near the cars, there is a sign: “Please do not touch or hand feed the monkeys, for your own safety.”
Tony Cellamare works near the sanctuary. He has also gotten used to the monkeys and he has learned what not to do around them.
“If you leave your car window open and there is something in there, they will climb in your car and go for it, if there is food or chips or something like that,” Cellamare said.
Williams, a Florida Atlantic University researcher, has named them all and she has a database with files for each of the monkeys. She said their ancestors escaped from the Dania Chimpanzee Farm in the late 1940s.
“It was opened by a member of the Roosevelt family and they were importing primates in from Africa for a biomedical use,” Williams said.
Williams said she hasn’t had reports of property damage or aggression. And unlike different species of monkeys in northern Florida, the vervet monkeys do not carry herpes in their saliva, urine, or feces, Williams said.
Feeding wild primates is prohibited by the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission, and harassing them is also not allowed.
“We have a huge public support system here and the community absolutely adores them,” Williams said.