DADE CITY — Cornelius, formerly known as the Mystery Monkey of Tampa Bay, soon may have a female companion in his cage at Dade City's Wild Things, according to zoo officials.
The facility is considering three female macaques living in a research lab in South Carolina, ranging from 16 to 19 years of age, said zoo director Kathy Stearns.
The macaque would cost about $5,000. The three females already are infected with Herpes B, a virus common in macaques, but potentially fatal in humans. Zoo workers take extra precautions when cleaning out Cornelius' cage.
Cornelius was diagnosed with the virus days after his capture in October.
Stearns said the adoption is not final but she has requested medical records for Cornelius' three potential companions.
The records will be reviewed by Stearns and veterinarian Don Woodman, who has monitored Cornelius since his capture.
Zoo officials also are talking with a monkey owner in Texas about a second macaque. Stearns said she would like at least two females to accompany Cornelius. "I'd like to get more, but we'll start with the one and see how that goes," she said.
Cornelius came to the public's attention in 2009. Some believe he was forced out of a colony of monkeys in Silver Springs. He evaded wildlife officials for about four years.
Cornelius was captured Oct. 24 in a St. Petersburg neighborhood near Lake Maggiore, about three weeks after he bit a woman outside her home.
In December, the monkey was permanently placed at Dade City's Wild Things.
During the first few weeks, he refused to peer out of his cage at zoo visitors and often rejected food, which included peanuts and monkey biscuits, similar to dog treats.
But Cornelius since has adjusted.
"He comes out for every tour. Before, he would be hesitant," Stearns said. "He's doing really good with that."