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'Mystery Monkey' Caught After 4 Years of Freedom in Florida

By Andrew Chow, Esq. on October 26, 2012 | Last updated on March 21, 2019

The whereabouts of Florida's evasive "Mystery Monkey" are a mystery no more, the Tampa Bay Times reports. But the animal's mysterious origins are still ripe for speculation.

After nearly four years on the run, the furry fugitive -- a rhesus macaque weighing 45 pounds -- has been caught and given a new name: Cornelius, as in the chimpanzee scientist from the "Planet of the Apes," according to the Times.

Better known as the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay, Cornelius had been spotted swinging from branches and darting in-between traffic over the past few years. Local fans even created a Facebook page in its honor.

Despite numerous attempts by wildlife agents to tranquilize the animal, the Mystery Monkey had always been able to escape capture.

That is, until Wednesday afternoon.

Wildlife agents fired a tranquilizer dart at the monkey as it perched on a branch in a St. Petersburg neighborhood, the Times reports. Authorities had stepped up their efforts to capture the animal after it bit a 60-year-old woman in the back.

Cornelius was taken to an animal hospital, and is now under a 30-day quarantine. Afterwards, the monkey will likely be taken to a wildlife sanctuary, authorities told the Times.

It's not clear where Cornelius came from, but the prevailing theory is that he was kicked out of a nearby colony of wild rhesus macaques. Others say he could be an escaped pet.

If Cornelius did indeed escape from a human owner, that owner could face legal consequences for the monkey's antics on the lam. In general, owners of wild animals are held strictly liable for any damage or injury caused by the animal, regardless of any safety precautions in place.

In addition, Florida's administrative code classifies rhesus macaques as Class II wild animals, which require a permit to be possessed as pets.

That's different from Class I wild animals such as lions, tigers, chimpanzees, and gorillas, all of which are prohibited from being possessed as pets under Florida code.

You can see more about the Mystery Monkey's capture in this video report by ABC News:

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