A local veterinarian who played a key role in helping capture a wild rhesus monkey on the lam in Tampa Bay for two years is getting backlash from some folks who say the simian is being denied its freedom.
Don Woodman, owner of the Animal Hospital of Northwood in Safety Harbor, says he has received threatening and prank phone calls since the news of the monkey’s capture became public.
“We’ve been getting prank calls and threats, people saying vets are evil and asking why we wouldn’t let the monkey remain free,” Woodman told Patch on Thursday.
“That’s the nature of people, to think he should be free. But I don’t understand why people think vets are going to hurt these creatures.”
Woodman says the capture of the monkey, nicknamed “Cornelius," was the end result of a long process that began almost three years ago and had resulted in numerous failed attempts to apprehend the elusive creature.
He and trapper Vernon Yates of Seminole had been trying to capture the macaque without harming it. After the monkey bit a St. Petersburg woman earlier this month, Yates and Woodman began tracking him in her yard.
Woodman says it took three attempts to bring Cornelius down; the first dart missed him, the second dart didn’t have enough medication in it, but the third dart had the right mix of meds, and after a short chase, he finally fell and was captured.
“Theoretically it should have been easy, but out in the field, it’s not,” Woodman said.
The monkey spent a few hours at the animal hospital, where blood was drawn for tests to determine what kind of diseases it may be carrying, its blood cell count and condition of its vital organs.
From there the macaque was transferred to Yates’ facility, Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation, in Seminole, where it will be quarantined for 30 days while attempts are made to find a nature sancutary for the animal.
Woodman wants to reassure people that the creature will absolutely not be euthanized unless tests determine it is carrying a serious disease, and it will not be given to a facility that wants to use it for publicity purposes.
"We hope to have a number of facilities that wish to give it a good home."
Woodman also says that he is not doing any of this for money or fame. In fact, he's paying for the blood tests and lab work himself. He's just glad the saga is finally over.
“I thank God we did catch him. If he stayed loose, he would have hurt somebody else, possibly a child, and there would have been an outcry to euthanize him. We did this so he wouldn't be euthanized."
“We’ve protected society and we’ve helped this animal,” he added. “It’s been very satisfying.”
If you've been following this story, we want to know: What do you think should happen to the runaway rhesus? Is life at a Florida animal sanctuary the right move, and can he readjust and flourish there?
Post a comment below and join the conversation.