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Mystery Monkey may find home at Dade City's Wild Things

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Published:   |   Updated: March 14, 2013 at 02:25 AM

The former Mystery Monkey may soon find a permanent home in a Pasco County zoo.

The rhesus macaque, which was captured by wildlife officials last month after running wild in south St. Petersburg for several years, got out of quarantine two days ago and could be signed over to new caretakers as early as this week, said Officer Baryl Martin, spokesman for the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

Once Martin receives permission from the state, the monkey will be released to trapper Vernon Yates, who had tracked the animal for three years and aided in its capture.

Yates plans to place the monkey, named Cornelius by his captors, at Dade City's Wild Things. The zoo plans to build an enclosure large enough to hold Cornelius and at least one female monkey, Yates said.

"They have one female monkey and are looking to find others," Yates said.

The monkeys will be spayed or neutered so they can't breed, he said.

Based on his behavior so far, it appears Cornelius will make a great addition to the zoo, Yates said.

"He's unbelievably friendly," Yates said. "I've seen pet monkeys that have more aggression being in a cage than this monkey has."

Yates said he and others have been able to feed the monkey by hand.

"It's unbelievable how good he is," Yates said

Cornelius had become aggressive to residents in the Lakewood Estates neighborhood, where he had lived for three years. The aggression led to increased efforts to capture him.

A woman was bitten when the monkey jumped on her back while she was in her backyard.

Cornelius' aggression may have been a symptom of loneliness, Yates said.

"They are a social animals; they don't want to be by themselves," he said

After capturing the monkey, officials learned it had herpes B, a common disease among rhesus macaques.

Once Cornelius is in his new home, his legions of fans will be able to see him in person.

While on the run, the monkey reached celebrity status with hundreds of friends on a Facebook page. He was also featured on Comedy Central's "Colbert Report."

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