The Christophe Harbour Foundation is pleased to support a new vervet monkey research initiative led by biological anthropologist and primatologist Dr. Kerry M. Dore. Dore, now an instructor in the School of Science at Marist College and member of the Center for Conservation Medicine and Ecosystem Health at Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, has extensive experience studying primates and has been researching vervet monkeys in St. Kitts since 2010. This summer, Dore brings her studies to the Southeast Peninsula.
“Monkeys inhabit virtually all parts of St. Kitts and Nevis,” says Dore. “What is being done on the Southeast Peninsula is essentially a pilot study, the results of which can be used to determine what should be done throughout the Federation.”
From her preliminary research, Dore concludes time is of the essence. “We must determine a properly structured and managed program. Crop predation by monkeys is a very serious problem.”
From 2011-2013, Dore worked as a consultant for the United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization on a pilot project aimed at finding an inexpensive tracking device that could be used to estimate the island’s monkey population. A similar, but more advanced tracking device is currently being used to conduct a population estimate on the Southeast Peninsula. The tracking devices will provide specific data on individual troop sizes and ranges and establish if island-wide control is required.
If the numbers support the local belief that vervet monkeys outnumber humans, further studies will be initiated to test the efficacy of different population control and land protection strategies. At this time, at least three broad approaches are up for consideration.
As a first step, the way forward actually begins with a look back into the past and the operations of the sugar industry. Dore’s dissertation shows how systematic protection of large plots of land like the infrastructure surrounding the sugar industry successfully kept monkey population in check. She advocates some of those practices should be considered.
In addition, Dore says farms and housing developments, such as those on the Southeast Peninsula with closely located plots, provide protection through the presence of constant human activity.
A third measure speaks to the work of rangers in the agricultural sector. The biological anthropologist and primatologist indicated that the ranger’s previous methods to control presence of and mitigate crop destruction by monkeys were successful.
Once the monkey population is at a manageable level, the next step is protecting the land and providing an alternative food source for the animals. Banana and papaya trees are particularly appropriate for this purpose, as they bear fruit year-round.
The southeast peninsula study began this June on Priddies Plateau, where fruit trees and a watering station will soon be installed. “The Christophe Harbour Foundation is a strong supporter of Dr. Dore’s work. This study has the potential to make a significant difference throughout the entire country,” says Christophe Harbour COO Bill Lee.
Using satellite tracking devices donated by the Christophe Harbour Foundation, Dore can now track and observe the monkeys on a daily basis. All total, preliminary results are expected within three months.