The Monkey Management Project designed and implemented by the Nature Foundation St. Maarten and funded by the R4CR Grant Scheme has been completed. This six-month project focused on researching the abundance and status of the invasive vervet monkey (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) and to establish sustainable and humane solutions to manage the invasive monkey population to protect St. Maarten’s native species and local agriculture. The project results recommend initiating the management solution human euthanasia of the monkeys. This solution would be the most time and cost effective and has received the most support from residents, according to the survey conducted. It is highly advised for the eradication management option to be initiated in the very near future.
The project included field research as well as a management option survey to gain the St. Maarten’s resident’s opinions. “The survey resulted in 54% of the respondents choosing eradication as the best management solution, and 33% of the respondents choosing sterilization, with the last 13% of respondents choosing to do nothing. These results show that the majority of the St. Maarten residents believe that eradication is the best management solution available” stated Project Coordinator Alice Manley.
The field research showed that the highest number of monkeys are present in Point Blanche hill area, but also in Guana Bay, Sentry and Dawn Beach hill areas, high amounts of monkeys can be seen. The numbers of monkeys sighted in the field surveys are expected to be an underestimation of the monkeys present, due to the difficulty of the monkey sightings in the dense bush area and differences in residential activity time of the monkeys during the day. It is estimated that a number of 6 to 9 separate troops of Vervet monkeys are present on the Dutch side of St. Maarten, the troops are estimated to have 10 up to a maximum of 50 individuals. “If nothing is done within the near future, the vervet monkey population on St. Maarten can rapidly increase causing further issues with native species, agriculture and even human safety. We recommend the government to make the funds available or apply for grants to start the management process as soon as possible to prevent deterioration of the monkey situation or have residents taking matters into their own hands” urged Nature Foundation’s Manager Melanie Meijer zu Schlochtern.
The management surveys were conducted in person, with representatives of the Nature Foundation visiting different ‘hotspots’ (grocery, convenience, and hardware stores) around the island at different times of the day. This survey was not posted online nor were the hotspots declared to the public ahead of time in an effort to keep the results unbiased demographically accurate.
“It was important to the Nature Foundation, R4CR, and the World Bank that the residents of St. Maarten were able to weigh in on the management options before a recommendation was given on how to handle this invasive species. It is a difficult decision to make morally and many aspects have to be taken into account. Giving the public a voice during this process ensures that the island will be supportive of future management projects,” said the Nature Foundation St. Maarten.
This research project has led to a fully developed research report that can be used to address funding options and inform the government and the public about the needs of managing the population. The Nature Foundation would like to thank R4CR and the World Bank for the opportunity to perform this project. The Foundation believes that the results from this project will be useful in the future to help maintain and promote the health of the native species and combat the effects of invasive species, the complete report can be found on the website http://www.naturefoundationsxm.org.
The R4CR program is a grant scheme that focuses exclusively on financing and strengthening of local Civil Society Organization (CSOs). The program is financed by the Government of the Netherlands via the St. Maarten Trust Fund. The latter is administered by the World Bank, implemented by the NRPB (National Recovery Program Bureau) and executed by VNGI (the Vereniging van Nederlandse Gemeenten International) in close cooperation with Foresee Foundation-NPOwer and other local partners.