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The Mystery of the Monkeys

Who can it be now?
A mystery is afoot in Riverdale. The residents of Cambridge Avenue near Broadview & Danforth have grown familiar in recent years with the roaming gangs of monkeys—a dozen at last count—that dangle from the utility wires above the street.
They move about only under cover of darkness, stealthily assuming new positions every few nights. By day, they prefer to remain motionless, silently watching passersby far below.
Just monkeying aroundAping the inclusive character of their neighbourhood, the Cambridge Monkeys count a koala and a leemur or two in their numbers. Together they line an entire block of the street, staring down on the world. Seeing all but revealing nothing. Smiling at the world as mysteriously as the Mona Lisa. Posing politely for pictures, but refusing to gather in one spot for a group photo.
Their preferred mode of communication with their primate cousins on the ground is to scrawl a joke or tall tale on a sheet of paper stapled to one of the utility poles. This week, they issued a haiku challenge. The first entry:

Motionless Monkeys
Suspended from the cables
Who has the remote?

Torontoist has an entry too:

Monkey on a string
Why you here, Mister Monkey?
If only we knew

Where do these poetry-loving monkeys come from? Are they outcasts from a larger gang? Long-lost refugees from the old Riverdale Zoo? The east end’s very own Guardian Angels? A pilot project testing public acceptance of omnipresent monkey surveillance? A local gang muscling out the competition?
If Jane Jacobs was right about eyes on the street being the key to a safe and livable neighbourhood, the residents of Cambridge Avenue have nothing to fear.
Photos by Val Dodge.


  • Chester Pape

    There’s a fellow who lives on the street who puts these up and moves them around. They are supposed to be a bit of whimsy and mostly they get taken that way but sometimes he gets a little out of hand putting too many in front of a single house and some of his neighbours have called the cops.

  • guest

    Too many monkeys in front of one house? Calling the cops? Is there a primate decoration bylaw of which most of us are unaware? Is it just that they’re unlicenced? Off-leash? Breaking monkey curfew?