DADE CITY — The lonely days and nights for the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay are numbered.
The monkey, now named Cornelius for the way he outsmarted authorities and avoided capture for four years, will be paired with a female rhesus macaque within two weeks, according to Dade City’s Wild Things president and head trainer, Randy Stearns.
Chrissy is her name and she is currently quarantined at the park. It’s a 30-day process that requires she be checked out by a veterinarian. Stearns said she has a clean bill of health and the countdown has begun to unite the monkeys.
She’s the perfect match.
“They’re estimated to be about the same age and pretty much the same temperament,” Stearns said. “He’s a very laid back guy; he’s not very active. Just kind of hangs out. So that was part of the problem trying to find a macaque that matches him.
“The vets checked her out. She’s a very sweet monkey and we think she’ll be a very good fit for him.”
Both monkeys are estimated to be between 16 and 18 years old. In captivity, rhesus macaques can survive up to 40 or 50 years, Stearns said.
As far as any offspring from the match-making, Stearns said that is to be determined.
Chrissy was purchased from a Florida location that asked to remain anonymous, Sterns said.
Cornelius’ current enclosure will be used to house both monkeys, but the park employees hope to move the pair to a 3/4 acre parcel already sectioned off.
“We’re trying to get donations through the fan club and things like that to put them in a larger enclosure,” Stearns said. “We already have land sectioned off for the larger enclosure. The main thing is just getting the funding, especially with the rising cost of everything right now.”
Cornelius was spotted in Hudson in 2008, and later made his way to Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. He was caught Oct. 23 after making his home in the Lakewood Estates neighborhood in south St. Petersburg.
Cornelius, whose exploits were reported on Comedy Central’s Colbert Report as well as the Today Show, also has more than 85,000 fans on his Facebook page. He even has 650 followers on Twitter. His last post on Sept. 17 brags, “Okay everyone here is the latest news… I gettin’ me (a) lady friend!!!!!! and now back to your regularly scheduled monkey business...”
Stearns said Cornelius was suspected to be part of a group of wild rhesus macaques that lived in the Silver Springs area near Ocala.
After his capture, Cornelius was brought to the 22-acre zoo on Dec. 3.
He’s named after a character in the movie Planet of the Apes, a chimpanzee that was an archeologist and historian.