Monkeys infected with herpes who are running rampant in Florida are soon going to multiply out of control with attacks of humans expected to rise.
Rhesus macaques are on the rampage on the banks of the Silver River in Florida and are constantly breeding and expanding their range.
Scientists have said as their population expands they will continue to come into contact with humans – leading to more scratches, bites and potentially fatal infections.
And the number of monkeys is expected to double within the next two years, according to a new study.
That could mean almost 400 monkeys sprawling the riverbanks unless action is taken to fightback
The new research was co-authored by Steve Johnson, a University of Florida professor of wildlife ecology and conservation, reports USA Today.
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And as the monkey population explodes, it is believed about 25% of them carrying the herpes B virus.
Professor Johnson explained the chance on a monkey infecting humans are slim, but it is not zero.
It is believed 21 people have been killed by herpes passed to them from monkeys in the past century.
And the last known fatal infection was in 1997, according o the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention.
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Professor Johnson said: “Unless there is some management action by the state to curtail their numbers, it's going to create a situation where they will be forced to take more drastic action due to a serious incident.”
Monkey populations on the raise will inevitably lead to more conflict with humans.
Florida had to close the nearby park due to aggressive monkeys, including one which chased a family.
And the monkeys often menace groups of park users as they hunt for food.
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Professor Johnson said: “I understand why they don't want to address the issue. It's a lose-lose situation. But if they do nothing, they are potentially opening up a barrel of monkeys, so to speak.
“It's not an issue if it's catching pythons. No one cares about snakes.
“When it's a furry, charismatic animal, it makes it different.”
The monkeys are invasive speech, and it is believed they were brought for a tourist attraction in the 1930s.
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Local legend however recalls the monkeys escaped from the set of Tarzan movies filed at Silver Springs during the 1930s and 1940s.
The species is native to parts of Afghanistan, Pakistan, India, China and other areas of southeast Asia
Monkeys were brought in by a man named Colonel Tooey, who operated a jungle boat cruise on the river.
He let six of the macaques lose on a small island on the river – known as Monkey Island – as part of the attraction, but they promptly escaped and established a population.
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More than 1,000 monkeys were removed by the state authorities from 1984 to 2012.
The practice was stopped however when it was discovered the monkeys would be sent to research facilities.
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And since then the monkeys have been spreading like wildfire, only stemmed by a ban on the feeding of wild monkeys.
Locals have said they believe the population is growing, with as many as six monkey troops active on the river.
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