As iconic as the islands’ pristine beaches and tropical forests, the 60,000-plus green monkeys of St. Kitts and Nevis are a quintessential part of the Caribbean experience for many visitors.
But while these photogenic mischief-makers might charm tourists, they pose serious threats to the twin-island Federation. Likely first brought to the islands from West Africa as exotic pets by European settlers in the 17th century, today the monkeys are putting pressure on native species, decimating crops and consistently evading efforts to scare them off.
Tackling the Caribbean’s iconic invaders
“Feral animals, particularly monkeys and wild pigs, cause considerable yield loss to food production each year,” says Melvin James, St. Kitts and Nevis’ Director of Agriculture. “In 2018, crude estimates indicated that a total of 90 metric tons of food—one month’s production—was rendered unmarketable due to feral animal invasion of farms on St. Kitts alone.”
Located in the Eastern Caribbean, like many tropical islands, St. Kitts and Nevis are rich in biodiversity. But many species are fragile and susceptible to outside threats, including invasive animals.
The United Nations Environment Programme and partners are working with the Government of St. Kitts and Nevis to research the impact of green monkeys on biodiversity, agriculture, tourism, and households. Backed by the Global Environment Facility, the program, formally known as the Preventing COSTS of Invasive Alien Species in Barbados and the OECS Countries project, will also develop a sustainable plan to manage the green monkey population.
Naitram Ramnanan, Regional Representative for project partner the Centre for Agriculture and Biosciences International (CABI), says green monkeys are becoming increasingly problematic in the region.
“In Barbados, for example, they are also a significant agricultural pest,” Ramnanan said. “While they are present in the wild in other islands, they are not yet a serious pest but they are highly likely to become one.”
The sustainable management plan that will be developed in St. Kitts and Nevis will also be replicated in Barbados and other islands.
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