CABI has shared its expertise on the management of invasive species as part of a consultation on how to mitigate the impacts of the green monkey (Chlorocebus sabaeus) on food security in St Kitts and Nevis.
A national consultation on the management of the species is currently under way with experts debating an action plan on how to cope with 37,000 monkeys on St Kitts (which is only 68 square miles in extent) while still being sensitive to tourists who enjoy seeing – and in some cases – petting the animals.
The invasive green monkey originally entered the Caribbean islands more than 350 years ago from early settlers arriving on ships originating from Senegal and Gambia in West Africa.
The earliest records from St Kitts are from 1700 with wild monkeys already roaming the island, having probably escaped from French plantation owners who kept them as pets.
Threat to food security
They have since established themselves in large numbers and munch their way through crops including mango, watermelons, squash and cucumber. Farmers have attempted to scare the monkeys away with scarecrows, rubber snakes and even fake birds of prey – but all with little success.
In terms of damage to crops caused by the green monkeys in the 2019 to 2020 season, the consultation heard that pineapple had the greatest amount of damage, followed by banana, pumpkin, soursop and sweet potato.
Furthermore, in respect of the impact of feral animals on food sources, one monkey reduces the food supply by one pound per day which represents $2.50 per pound, the consultation heard.
The Hon. Samal Duggins, Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries, Marine Resources, Entrepreneurship, Cooperatives and Creative Economy, told the consultation, however, that live traps have had some success capturing, on average, 25 monkeys which are then humanely euthanized.
Control, not eradicate
He added that while there are plans to lay 500 traps by the end of 2023, he conceded that the intention is not to eradicate them totally – recognising that they bring joy to tourists and that they “represent part of who we are, and something we must hold on to.”
However, the science of invasive biology suggests that if the remaining population are not also sterilized the population will need to be controlled into perpetuity which can be costlier in the long run.
Naitram Ramnanan, CABI’s Regional Representative, Caribbean, attended the consultation and spoke under the auspice of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Trust Fund project ‘Preventing COSTS of Invasive Alien Species (IAS) in Barbados and the OECS Countries’ – which is tackling the issue of invasive species.
Mr Ramnanan said the green monkey in St Kitts and Nevis is a very good example of the nature of an invasive species problem.
“It could take a long, long time from the introduction for the devastating impact to be realised both in terms of biodiversity and agriculture,” he said. “Therefore, we must learn and share this experience with the wider Caribbean.”
Measures to mitigate
Back in December 2021, CABI supported plans for a Caribbean Invasive Species Trust Fund (CIAS TF) to help mitigate against the threats posed by none-native plants and animals.
The CIAS TF is independently mobilizing, blending and overseeing the collection and allocation of financial resources to build the capacity needed to facilitate a strategic focus on IAS management, inclusive of the formulation, co-ordination and execution of National and Regional Invasive Species Strategies and Action Plans.
Furthermore, the Caribbean Biosecurity Interceptions System (CBIS) – a database for interceptions at ports of entry – was approved at the 14th annual meeting of the Caribbean Plant Health Directors (CPHD) – to help reduce the risks posed by IAS to native species such as the Barbados leaf toe gecko.
The CBIS allows for various reporting to take place including the date and frequency of interceptions and the number and type of pest or disease at various ports of entry.
Mr Ramnanan added that, in terms of scaling up, the approaches and methodologies employed in looking at the monkey problem could also be translated to feral cats, dogs, pigs, goats, donkeys, mongoose and deer.
“Other countries where there is a monkey presence which could become serious in the near future include St Kitts, Nevis, Barbados, Saint Martin and Tortola. There are also other countries with monkeys in the pet industry which may be released in the wild in the future, could also become a problem,” he said.
Mr Huey Sargeant, Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Agriculture, Nevis, said the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) had committed funds to deal with feral animal control – including the impacts caused by green monkeys and donkeys.
The fund started 10 years ago with an annual budget of $500,000 which rose to $1.2 million in 2022.
He said that spending money and developing budgets to cope with the invasive species problem is “only one aspect of the battle” with more research and observation on the impacts needed to develop workable strategies to arrest the problems.
Main image: The invasive Green Monkey found in St Kitts and Nevis originally came from Senegal and the Gambia in West Africa 350 years ago (Credit: Caribbean Invasives).
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