There’s a place just off the coast of Edisto Island in the ACE Basin that most people have never seen, let alone heard of.
This place is Morgan Island or, if you’re a local, “Monkey Island.”
Back in the late 1970s, the Caribbean Primate Research Center’s rhesus monkey breeding colony was shipped to Morgan Island. Studies were done to see if a free range monkey colony could be collected and shipped to a new location with minimal effect on the monkeys and it was successful. The monkeys thrived on the remote island and continue to do so. To date, there are approximately 4,000 monkeys on the island and each year they breed and produce 750 additional monkeys.
So why are the monkeys on an island off the coast of South Carolina? The simple answer to that is this: research.
Every year 500 monkeys are taken from the island and sent to laboratories were they are used for testing. Throughout the 30+ years the monkeys have been on the island they’ve been used for vaccine research for things like polio, AIDS, and bio-terrorism.
Animal testing doesn’t sit well with many people, but animal researchers are quick to point out that a handful of animals make it possible to save millions of humans by creating new medications and vaccines that save lives.
Regardless of how you feel about animal testing, none of the testing is done on the island itself, so anyone with fears of mutant monkeys swimming through the ACE Basin and winding up on Edisto’s shore needn’t worry.
Most people will never get a chance to see one of these monkeys since not only is Morgan Island incredibly difficult to find, it is protected by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. No one is allowed on the island other than the monkeys’ caretakers. Should anyone wind up on the shores of Monkey Island for whatever reason, it is strongly recommended that those people turn around and get back on their boat as the monkeys will attack strangers.
Over the years, some people have made their way to the island only to be greeted by shrieking angry monkeys that did not at all hesitate to pelt the trespassers with steaming piles of monkey dung.
There are signs everywhere on the island warning trespassers that the island is the site of a government project and that they will be prosecuted for venturing onto the island. But if you do stumble upon the island someday while out on the boat, keep an eye out for monkeys swinging in the branches of the cypress trees or taking in a sunset from the canopy of the trees – and stay on your boat.