Morgan Island SC: Monkey Island in SC


Did you know that South Carolina has an island with monkeys on it? Who knew Beaufort holds an island with a large population of monkeys. Although it is prohibited to visit the island, which I’ll further explain, you can still take kayak and other water craft near the island and get a glimpse of the chimps.

closeup photo of primate
Photo by Andre Mouton on

History of the Island

Morgan island is owned and managed by the South Carolina Department of Natural Resources. It is approximately 2000 acres and 400 acres are leased to Charles River Laboratories. The monkeys themselves are owned by another company and they do use the monkeys for research. The monkeys are taken to a lab off the island, however while they stay on Morgan Island they are allowed to roam and breed.

The island became a Monkey Island in the 1970’s after a population of Rhesus Macaque Monkeys that were used for testing at a research center in Puerto Rico escaped. These escaped monkeys who were infected with a virus, actually infected humans in Puerto Rico and a better solution was to isolate them at Morgan Island, thus limiting their chances of escape and causing danger to others.

The Rhesus Macaque Monkeys

This certain type of monkey is one of the most wide spread species of primate in the world. The monkey is described as having a brown or gray coat with a pink face. They can weigh anywhere between 12 to 20 pounds and often are in groups of 20-200. They were normally found in South Central and Southeast Asia. There are a few established feral colonies of the monkeys in the United States with the first colony in Silver Springs Florida. This was started by a man who wanted to do tours show the monkeys and profit more with the exotic animal in the tour area.

Visiting Monkey Island

For obvious reasons, you cannot step foot on this island. The wild monkeys are isolated for good cause, but can be seen from a boat off the coast of the island. Botany Bay Ecotours offers private tours around the island and the ACE Basin if you want to view the monkeys up close. While you are there you can stop by and see Bee City!

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