Monkey programs working in Nevis

Field biologists on Nevis have reported that crop raiding by the local green velvet monkeys on the island is on the decrease.

Ethno ornithologist Vernan Gibbs told the Observer Monday the monkey crop raiding has decreased by some 18 percent. “In the New River area,” he said, “there has been a reduction by 18 percent in crop raiding behavior. We have spoken to farmers and we have assessed and quantified the damages in EC dollars.”

Gibbs and Tony Mores are field biologists who are a part of Arnova Sustainable Future, a nonprofit organization in the federation that has a special focus on the human-monkey conflict. Gibbs notes that he arrived in Nevis in 2015 to do field assessment that would have set the scene on how they wanted to deal with the issue. They also come up with a variety of measures and interventions that to elevate the problem; from that derived the Monkey Management Plan in 2016.

In an effort to control what Gibbs believe to be a 12,000-member monkey population, a number of projects have been initiated.

“We have our feeding stations that have been very, very successful,” he said. “These feeding stations are located in the upper sloops of the mountain, and the monkeys are fed vegetable peelings and fruits collected from various hotels on the island. The items are placed on a table when the monkeys are not around.”

But that’s not all. “Within their food, we are putting contraception for males [that] are more like a sterilization,” he said, “which will render eventually the males infertile. We are hoping in that way, we will encourage the monkey population to decrease.”

In addition to the feeding stations, Gibbs says that money has been raised to put up electrical fencing.

“We have raised money to do the electrification of Cades Bay farming community,” he said. “There are four farmers there [who] now have a full electrified fence, which is your first line of defense against monkey crop-raiding behavior.”

He said that they are currently working on the electrification of the New River Community, where farmers have also complained of suffering from crop damage.

Another upcoming project Gibbs alerted the Observer to was a reforestation project. “Nevisian are asked to participate in the 1000 Tree Project, where we plan on buying and planting 1000 fruit trees, including banana and papaya, [that] will be planted on lands on the upper sloops of the mountain,” Gibbs said. “We can encourage monkeys to stay up there. We don’t want them to come down like in times of draught. They will have enough food in the mountains to eat.”

Gibbs said they worked very closely with the Nevis Island Administration and secured funding from the Taiwanese government to help in the purchasing of more electrical fencing.

The Honourable Mark Brantley, the minister of tourism, noted that “we welcome this partnership with Arnova and the assistance from the Taiwanese  government and the  people of Taiwan to finally address the decades-old monkey-human conflict in a humane and scientific way. We have already started to see the improvement and I am certain that our commercial and backyard farmers are happy for this long-awaited initiative.”

Gibbs encourages the start of a robust school program and an awareness program that can teach youths to understand monkeys and deal with the issue surrounding crop-raiding behavior and other nuisances of monkeys.

“It is very important to remember there will always be monkeys on Nevis, he said, “but the conflict issue surrounding the monkeys is one that can be elevated, mitigated and we can all adapt to it.”

Gibbs concluded by informing that Arnova is here to help the people of the federation. “We are here to help,” he said. “We have a monkey hotline and [anyone with problems] needs to phone us so we can go to help them as much as we can.”