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Another mystery monkey of Tampa Bay?

Published Nov. 29, 2014

TAMPA — Two people called police on Thanksgiving Day to report a monkey on the loose.

The callers said they saw it near Tampa's Lowry Park Zoo — first in a yard, and then running along Sligh Avenue. But the zoo told police it wasn't one of theirs.

"The monkey was described as being approx 3 ft tall, brown and fast," Tampa police wrote on the agency's Facebook page.

"There is no probable cause for this monkey's arrest, however, we will work tirelessly to apprehend him," police wrote. "If anyone has any information on the monkey's whereabouts or has future sightings, please call the Tampa Police Department at 813-231-6130."

An anonymous report to police had the monkey hanging around Hiawatha Street east of Armenia Avenue. Most neighbors contacted Friday by the Tampa Bay Times were skeptical about the sighting, though some conceded a monkey might have taken up residence amidst the neighborhood's lake-front homes, given the scores of fruit trees in some back yards.

"We have bananas and there are some orange trees nearby," said Anais Ochoa, 14, who lives on the 2100 block of Hiawatha.

She said she's hoping the reports are true, so she could see the monkey.

"I wouldn't approach it. I wouldn't want it to jump on me," she said.

Police have visited the neighborhood and warned Hiawatha residents not to approach the animal if they see it.

Kathy Rivitt, 45, who also lives on the 2100 block of Hiawatha, said the monkey tale raced through the neighborhood once police showed up Thursday.

While she's skeptical, she said she catches herself scanning trees in her yard and nearby, wondering whether the monkey is up there.

"I told my daughter we won't be feeding him," she said.

The most famous mystery monkey of Tampa Bay — named Cornelius — began making headlines in 2009. The male rhesus macaque had been spotted throughout the bay area, repeatedly evading efforts of wildlife experts to capture him.

Some believed he had been forced out of a colony of monkeys in Silver Springs, near Ocala.

Cornelius became somewhat of a celebrity, generating national TV chatter, a Facebook fan page and celebratory cries of "Go, monkey, go!"

His run from captivity came to an end on Oct. 24, 2012, when he was shot with a tranquilizer dart in a St. Petersburg neighborhood near Lake Maggiore, about three weeks after he had bitten a woman outside her home.