Tuesday, February 26, 2008

NASA Space Monkey Retirement Home

Florida has its monkey legends, some of which are based in fact, while others are more myth. There are the packs of wild monkeys that roam the Ocala National Forest, especially near Silver Springs as well as the wild monkeys in Dania Beach that caused all sorts of conspiracy theories when the city was accused of coming in at night and killing the monkeys one by one. There are the mysterious Monkey Island legends where a group of lab monkeys were placed on an island somewhere in southwest Florida for experimental purposes, until the company that put them there closed up and abandoned the monkeys causing them to go insane. These crazy monkeys are rumored to kill and eat any boaters that don’t realize what island they are landing on. And who can forget the Skunk Ape, Florida’s version of Bigfoot. Recently though, I came across a bit of Florida monkey lore that I was completely unaware of and it actually exists too…

Not too long ago, I was virtually flying over Florida in Google Earth, when I came across a placemark that someone had posted pointing out a NASA Space Monkey retirement home. From Google’s satellite images, it looked like this place was a good sized compound consisting of several islands surround by canals. It was in the middle of nowhere, surrounded by orange groves for miles. After finding out about this place, I decided that it was a must see on my next excursion through the area. What could be cooler than seeing the same monkeys that had rode in centrifuges simulating spaceflight, now sitting on a man-made island retired in Florida?

A few months later, I went and found the place. The only problem was that I didn’t see any monkeys. The whole place was surrounded by large dirt embankments behind a barbed wire fence and a canal. There were some signs telling what the place was though. Apparently what was behind those hills was the world’s largest chimpanzee sanctuary. They gave a website: www.savethechimps.org, and in all caps the sign told you that the chimp sanctuary was NOT OPEN TO THE PUBLIC.






In one spot in the front of the place, I spotted what could be called a chimp playground over the hill. I got out of the car for a closer look, but I still didn’t see any chimps. I did hear them though at this spot. They were very noisy…





I didn’t get to see any chimps, but as I was stopped here I spotted an alligator basking in the sun on the opposite shore of the canal.






It was a bit disappointing that I didn’t see any of the chimps. It would be great if this place put up some sort of observation deck or something where you could see over the hill and possibly have a better chance of seeing a chimpanzee. I think people would be more interested in saving the chimps here if they could actually see the chimps.As I was leaving, there was a nice sunset to the west with the sound of chimps howling in the background…


1 comment:

Cedo said...

Hey great post ! I actually posted the placemark in Google Earth sometime ago based on what one of my instructors used to tell me when we overflew it. Until now I wasn't sure it was true ! Thanks