Voracious, small monkeys bedevil Nevis

Residents of this tiny two-island federation say Public Enemy No. 1 stands 2 feet tall, weighs 12 pounds and craves ripe fruit, but will gladly settle for squash or cucumbers on the vine. Even flowers or fiery hot peppers will do in a pinch, the Associated Press reports.

The fact that the vervet monkeys will eat just about anything they can get their furry hands on is precisely the problem for island residents who have struggled to coexist with the pesky primates since they arrived three centuries ago on slave ships from West Africa.

The monkeys have always been a nuisance, emerging from their forest homes to raid farms and gardens despite efforts over the years to deter them with baited cages, poisoned fruit and walls fashioned from chicken wire.

But the problem is now more urgent than ever, frustrated residents say, especially at a time when more people than ever are trying to grow their own crops to save money and supply tourist resorts with local produce.

“Crop losses are tremendous. We have some farmers who lose everything,” said Randy Elliott, agricultural supervisor in Nevis, a 36-square-mile island whose peak is a dormant volcano often hidden in clouds, its slopes leveling off to fields where sugar plantations once thrived.

Elliott says the black-faced primates also seem to be bolder and stronger than before, and leaving their highland homes in greater numbers to raid lowland towns. “They’re getting more muscular,” he said. “I’ve seen males with six-pack abs.”

On the larger island of St. Kitts, government officials say they have no current programs in place to thin the monkey ranks. They leave that to a few trappers and farmers who take matters into their own hands, said Gene Knight, policy research analyst for St. Kitts’ agriculture ministry.

Future strategies could include ramped-up trapping, but what to do with the monkeys once they are caught, whether they should be “simply euthanized, or sold, or used to manufacture dog food or eaten, or whatever, is still an ongoing discussion,” Knight said.

Precise numbers of the vervet population are hard to come by. A study conducted by a Cuban primate specialist suggests there are now about 25,000 monkeys — one for every two people. But many locals on the two islands of 50,000 people insist there are more monkeys than humans.

For the original report go to http://www.tampabay.com/news/voracious-small-monkeys-bedevil-caribbean-island/1195233

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