Monkeys in a Airport?…

Monkeys in a Airport?...

As departing jetliners roared overhead, an aging vervet monkey moped on a mangrove branch one recent afternoon in the woods he inhabits near a South Florida airport, his ego bruised.

Mikey, as he is called by his human observers, has long been the laid-back alpha male of a troop of monkeys ruling this tract of land, tucked off a busy runway at Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood International Airport. But this day he lost when challenged by a feisty youngster called Spike. Mikey fled screaming and was now sullenly staring at humans watching him from 15 feet (4 meters) away.

“Did you have a bad day?” asks Deborah “Missy” Williams, a Lynn University science professor who has been studying the troop and others nearby since 2014. “We will leave you alone so you can ponder.”

The monkeys are local celebrities, their travails detailed by TV and newspapers, and popular visitors with nearby workers, who feed them despite signs saying that’s illegal.

“My friends are like, ‘You have monkeys at your job?’” laughed airport parking lot attendant Harlen Caldera as she gave them raisins and nuts. Some ate from her hand, while others snatched what food she scattered.

Travelers are often surprised to see the monkeys. They squeal in delight and grab their cellphones, hoping for photos. Vervets are gray and black with a greenish tinge, helping them blend into the trees. Males typically grow to 2 feet (0.6 meters) and 15 pounds (6.8 kilograms); females reach 18 inches (0.5 meters) and 10 pounds (4.5 kilograms). They live about 20 years.

As darkness neared, the troop moved from the mangroves into the airport parking lot. It’s dinner time and there are seeds to pluck and workers’ treats to get. Some played while others groomed each other. Spike and Mikey again tussled before Williams’ admonition separated them. The aging king and his would-be heir then sat feet apart, eyeing each other warily. 

Soon sated, the monkeys climbed back into their trees to spend another night in their unexpected realm, paying no heed to the loud metallic birds flying above.