photo by Waheeda Harris
the vervet monkey
African green, or “vervet” monkeys (Chlorocebus aethiops) have lived on St. Kitts & Nevis for over 300 years. Estimates vary widely, but today there are thousands of free-roaming monkeys on the islands.
The monkeys live in mountain forests, where they feed off leaves, flowers, berries, fruit and insects. To the frustration of small-scale farmers, monkeys on St. Kitts & Nevis can cause damage to crops, and pose a challenge as the islands work to produce more of their own food and import less.
The killing or export of monkeys is sometimes promoted as a solution to human-monkey conflicts. This is not only cruel, but it fails to address the issue long-term. There are ways to reduce the indigenous monkey population which are not only humane, but also more effective.
In a report released in June 2010, the St. Kitts & Nevis Ministry of Agriculture proposed two long-term strategies to control the monkey population and reduce crop destruction: a spay & neuter program, and the establishment of strategically located feeding sites to provide monkeys an alternative source of food. The sterilization of monkeys has the potential to significantly decrease the population. A spay & neuter program could also act as a teaching tool for the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, located on St. Kitts. The report also stated that the monkey population on the islands has stabilized—the monkey population is not growing.
Two organizations on St. Kitts—the Behavioral Science Foundation (dba Primate Resources International) and the St. Kitts Biomedical Research Foundation—purchase wild-caught monkeys from trappers and sell them for export. Both organizations also maintain laboratory facilities on the island, where monkeys are used in research and testing for pharmaceutical and biotech corporations.