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Friday, Oct 20, 2017
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Mystery Monkey 'adjusting quite well' at Dade City's Wild Things

DADE CITY - The Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay, a rhesus macaque who now goes by the name Cornelius, is starting to make himself at home at Dade City's Wild Things, where he is a featured stop on the zoo's riding tour. "He's adjusting quite well," said Randy Stearns, the zoo's president and head animal trainer. The Mystery Monkey, something of a celebrity in the region, remains quite popular, Stearns said, as callers and visitors to the park often ask about him. The riding tour has become especially busy during the holiday season, he said. Right now, the monkey lives alone in his enclosure, but in the next month he is expected to be joined by a companion. A female rhesus macaque past her breeding years will be brought in from another facility, Stearns said.
Cornelius moved in at Dade City's Wild Things on Dec. 3, about a month after his capture in St. Petersburg put an end to a four-year odyssey in which he eluded would-be captors as he made his way around Pasco, Hillsborough and Pinellas counties. The monkey's origins were unknown, but speculation has been that he traveled from the Silver Springs area near Ocala, where a group of rhesus macaques has made its home for decades. Cornelius may have been booted out of his troop during a battle over dominance and headed south in search of other macaques. While on the run, the monkey became a media sensation. He drew thousands of friends to a Facebook page devoted to him and was featured on Comedy Central's "The Colbert Report." Stearns said Cornelius is becoming accustomed to the people who stop by to see him in his enclosure, a wooden house inside a nine-gauge chain-link cage. He's also getting used to the "captive food" set out for him each day, and peanuts have become a favorite. "He eats those first," Stearns said. A companion for Cornelius isn't the only addition planned for Dade City's Wild Things in 2013. The 22-acre zoo is working on new shows and hopes to finish a zip line over the tiger habitat, Stearns said.

rblair@tampatrib.com (813) 371-1853 Twitter: @RBlairTBO

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