Nature Foundation statement on St. Maarten’s invasive species management project disinformation

The Nature Foundation Sint Maarten would like to clarify some disinformation currently being spread on Facebook by an internationally based organization regarding our role in the invasive species management project. This project works to control the population of non-native, invasive vervet monkeys (Chlorocebus pygerythrus) on the island. The accusations, made largely by individuals who are not from and do not live in St. Maarten, demonstrate a serious lack of understanding about the situation here.  

  1. Claims that between $350,000 and $500,000 have been provided to the Nature Foundation by the Government of Sint Maarten for this project are false. We do not know where these exaggerated numbers have come from, as the yearly subsidy provided to the Nature Foundation for this project is just enough to cover the minimum salary of a full-time ranger before taxes and the cost of implementation and equipment. Information about our financial relationship with the government is public and can be requested directly from Parliament. All funding use is accounted for, reported to the government, and subject to audits.  
  1. The accusation that the Nature Foundation is organizing hunting parties to shoot monkeys is fabricated. This allegation appears to have originated from an August 17 comment by someone who claims to have seen a Nature Foundation truck in Pic Paradis along with armed staff and hunting dogs, and later heard gunshots. As non-locals may not be aware, Pic Paradis is a hill on the French side of Saint-Martin. Sint Maarten officials have no authority on Saint-Martin and cannot engage in any sort of work there, given that it is a different country. The Nature Foundation has not deviated from the veterinarian-administered and supervised humane euthanasia methods detailed in our report.  
  1. Absolutely no traps have been installed without explicit permission from the owners of the property on whose land they were installed. We work closely with these landowners and have received their consent and acknowledgement of any trapping activities. If traps have somehow been moved onto someone else’s private property without their permission, please contact us immediately so we can relocate it.
  2. Claims that the program has only been supported by farmers and “rich outsiders” are inaccurate. Monkey activity disproportionately impacts hillside dwellers and residents who take part in any sort of agriculture, including farming, hobby gardening, and subsistence farming of fruit trees and bushes — a common activity for St. Maarteners. As part of our formal study, we conducted a random survey at various public locations across St. Maarten to help us obtain a more accurate representation of the public’s sentiments, rather than relying on an online survey, which could easily be skewed in either direction via social media campaigns. 
  1. St. Maarten’s invasive species management program is based on available funding, legal restrictions, and technical capacity. The funding provided was the minimum needed to implement the euthanasia protocol, but insufficient for a full sterilization procedure. Additionally, officials must work within the local legal framework, which prevents us from releasing any non-native flora or fauna species. Since invasive species must first be captured for sterilization, releasing them after would be a violation of the government’s own law.  

We understand that the invasive species management project is a painful and controversial approach to protecting St. Maarten’s biodiversity and agriculture, but it is one that we have been responsible for carrying out since it was proposed and initiated under previous Nature Foundation direction. This program is not the first of its kind, as it falls in line with the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) #15, well as the Convention on Biological Diversity’s Global Biodiversity Framework, target 6. Both international guidelines call for the eradication and control of invasive species, particularly on vulnerable and sensitive island nations.  

Given the current significant but manageable size of the vervet monkey population, there is a window of opportunity to ensure that the issue does not worsen in coming decades. In the face of substantial monkey overpopulation, neighboring islands have turned to more desperate means of population control, including consumption, poisoning, hunting, and shipping monkeys away for biomedical research. These are all invasive species management strategies that St. Maarten would like to avoid, by preventing the situation here from reaching that point at all. With the current program projected to end in 2026, we plan to thoroughly assess its impact upon completion and review what alternative, long-term management options we have within local law, if necessary.  

We hope to not have to issue another public statement addressing falsehoods and rumors, originating from individuals overseas who cannot provide accurate information on this matter. The Nature Foundation encourages any St. Maarten resident to reach out to us directly with inquiries about our work in the future.

The Nature Foundation Sint Maarten is a non-profit, non-governmental organization established in 1997, dedicated to conserving the natural ecosystems and resources of St. Maarten through research programs, educational initiatives, and policy assessment. You can contact the Nature Foundation by emailing or calling (+1) 721-544-4267.