CHARLESTON, S.C. (Mark Price/The Charlotte Observer) - A grisly animal carcass reported on a South Carolina beach last week has captured the imagination of international tabloids, with some claiming it escaped from an island of federally protected monkeys used by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases.
State wildlife officials say that’s far fetched, however, given the state-owned island is more than 100 miles away from where the carcass was found.
Erika Constantine says the animal washed up at Charleston’s Demetre Park, and she posted a video of it Feb. 6 on the I Love Folly Beach SC Facebook group, which has 32,000 members.
“Anybody know what this is?” she asked in the post. “There was a tiny bit of hair still attached to it...I haven’t heard back from anyone confirming what this is 100 percent, so I guess it’ll just stay a mystery.”
Officials with the S.C. Department of Natural Resources told McClatchy News that an opossum or raccoon are possible explanations, based on the size of the creature in the video.
The agency had no record of inquiries made about the discovery last week, but would like to know what became of it, according to David Lucas of the DNR office of media and outreach.
Tabloids around the world have offered countless ideas, with headlines like:
- “Mysterious creature with no eyes washes up on beach from ‘Monkey Island’ ” (The Mirror UK).
- “Skeleton Of A Mysterious Creature With Big Teeth Washes Up On A Beach, Leaves People Baffled!” (The Indian Times).
- “Mystery creature with no eyes washes up on beach leaving locals ‘stumped’ amid claims it’s mythical ‘chupacabra’ monster” (The U.S. Sun).
The Daily Star was the first to say the creature “is thought to be a refugee from the U.S. government’s secretive ‘Monkey Island,’ ” and that idea is not as far fetched as it sounds.
Morgan Island near Beaufort is often referred to as “Monkey Island” because it is “populated by a colony of Rhesus monkeys” used for research by National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, according to a 2016 article in The State newspaper.
“There are, at last count, over 3,000 of them ... protected under federal law,” The State reported, noting lab work does not take place on the island.
Morgan Island is owned by the DNR and leased to the federal government for the monkeys, Lucas told McClatchy News.
He said a state “furbearer biologist” watched the video and determined “the dental formula” of the animal did not match that of a Rhesus monkey.
“It seems kind of a stretch to say the animal is from there, because of the distance. In theory anything is possible, but it’s about 100 miles, which is a long way for an animal to go,” he told McClatchy.
The Daily Star says it interviewed Constantine, who said she was walking her dog when she found the carcass. “It was the size of a small dog but the structure of the whole thing suggests it’s definitely not a dog,” she told The Daily Star.
More than 700 people have commented on her post, many agreeing that it had to be from “Monkey Island.”
“That is not a possum! Looks scary!” posted Jenny Eddings.