Tourists love them. Residents hate them. They are pests – – cute, furry-faced, little pests. Green vervet monkeys are known for entertaining tourists, but also for their destruction, causing islanders to ponder the best way to preserve one of Nevis’s biggest attractions, while at the same time protecting their island’s ability to prosper.
Green vervet monkeys are believed to come with slaves to Barbados, St. Kitts, and Nevis from West Africa in the late 1600’s, with large populations developing by the early 1700’s. Their appetite seems to never be satisfied, and they’ll munch on a farmer’s crops if opportunity arises. Their path of destruction extends beyond consumption of the island’s fruit and vegetables. Green vervet monkeys have been known to cause blackouts in Barbados and Kenya by interfering with electrical equipment.
Islanders have explored options to control the population, carefully trying to balance the effect on tourism, the interests of animal rights groups, and the interests of those involved in agricultural endeavors on the island. Options explored included extermination, sterilization, exportation, and even putting them on the dinner table!
The impact to the people of the islands is palpable. There is no love for these creatures. They can quickly turn profit into loss for local farmers, and considering the high cost of importing food to the islands, it is a real problem for everyone. In July of 2016, the Department of Agriculture of the Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis conducted a “Monkey Summit,” to address the problem. As a result of the summit, new barrier methods were introduced to keep the monkeys away from crops, feeding stations were installed, reforestation was commenced of fast-growing fruit trees previously destroyed by hurricane, and studies of the monkey population have been instituted.
Hopefully, a balance can be achieved as the monkeys are a beloved attraction on the island. One late afternoon, we took a long walk up the 15th fairway of the Four Seasons Nevis golf course in search of monkeys. After walking the ravine to the 14th and down the 10th fairway, the monkeys suddenly appeared, devouring mangoes and seed pods, jumping from branch to branch through the trees, and posing for photographs.
The monkeys are great fun for tourists, but tourists should know that they are a serious problem to residents, and tourists need to respect the islanders’ choices going forward.
We have many more posts coming from our June 2017 trip to Nevis, so stay tuned! In the mean time, explore our posts to date, and those from past adventures on this beautiful island.
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