The mysterious 500 acre forest of Morgan Island holds a massive colony of nearly 4,000 rhesus monkeys, but strangely enough, this island is just off the coast of South Carolina! How did the monkeys get there? Why are there so many of them? Why didn’t you know about this?
As strange as it sounds, Morgan Island is the largest free-ranging colony of primates in North America. Way back in 1979, the FDA released a population of rhesus monkeys that were part of an invasive colony from Puerto Rico onto the uninhabited island to be used as test subjects for various Polio vaccines. The monkeys thrived and continued to breed to this day, and the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources owns both Morgan Island, as well as the thousands of primates that rule the isolated jungle.
These days, the numbered and tattooed monkeys are care for and fed daily by Charles River Laboratories, who regularly selects, captures and transports hundreds of the simians off the island each year to be sent to science labs around the nation. Morgan Island is completely off limits to the general public, not only due to the island being stocked with valuable lab “property,” but also because a poorly prepared trespasser could be savagely mauled by a mob of hepatitis-B infected monkeys. Yikes! If you’d like to check out South Carolina’s legendary Monkey Island, do as the intimidating government signs say, and stay off the island!