The Ministry of TEATT has collaborated with the Nature Foundation St. Maarten to support the new Invasive Species Project by providing essential funding. This financial support was used to purchase much needed materials and equipment and to facilitate training by an experienced trapper from the island of St. Kitts.
In 2020 Nature Foundation research estimated that approximately 450 vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) lived in Dutch St. Maarten. As part of the Invasive Species Project, Nature Foundation staff will continue to monitor the population of the species with a yearly survey of the troops. While this survey is not yet complete for 2022 initial numbers indicate a large increase in troop size over the last two years.
The number of monkeys in St. Maarten will continue to grow if no measures are taken, and the consequences to St. Maarten’s native ecosystems will be severe. A recent study from St. Kitts indicates the current number of invasive monkeys is estimated to be 40,000 in 2020 (Dore et al., unpublished), a number equaling St. Kitts’ human population. Invasive species wreak havoc on native species especially in island states. Strong marine and terrestrial environments with healthy biodiversity are key to the fight against climate change.
In St. Maarten the recent pandemic resulted in an increase of home-growers as well as interest in the island becoming more self-sustainable by supporting local agriculturists. Members of the community that have attempted to grow their own fruit and vegetables as well as local farmers have frequently reported issues with vervet monkeys raiding their crops and destroying their livelihood. Invasive Species Project Staff have spoken to many of these stakeholders and hope to alleviate some of the stress placed on them due to the damages caused by this species.
“The support from the Ministry of TEATT has been essential for the success of this project,” said Terrestrial Ranger Eusebio Richardson, “We were able to learn from an established trapper in St. Kitts the most effective management practices. This is key to ensure that within the time allowed we can make an impact and protect the biodiversity of the island. St. Maarten is a beautiful and unique island, protecting the terrestrial and marine ecosystems should be a top priority.”
The support of the Ministry of TEATT for the Invasive Species Project is instrumental to the success of the works, enabling the staff to execute tasks needed to manage the species population. Through the work with the visiting expert the Nature Foundation staff was able to develop trapping methods which have been perfected through years of species management on St. Kitts. Trapping techniques were shared, and locations were scouted to ensure that foundation staff could quickly become effective and impactful throughout these works.
“We are incredibly thankful to the Ministry of TEATT and the staff who have been working with us to make this support a reality. We look forward to working towards more collaborations and joint projects in the future,” said Nature Foundation Manager Leslie Hickerson.