Solutions sought to address monkey overpopulation posing serious threat to farmers
BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – Solutions to solve the problem of crop destruction wreaked by the Green Vervet Monkey that, according to a previous count, outnumbers the population of St. Kitts and Nevis by a few thousands were discussed by E. Alistair Edwards, permanent secretary in the Ministry of Agriculture, on July 4’s “Working for You.”
Edwards said that methods such as barriers and capturing the primates are some of the options. “We have two such so far,” he said. “One is an electrical fence working by and large. The strand of wire to the top of your fence, which doesn’t allow the monkey to get in, is a live wire, not enough to kill a human, but enough to give a very strong shock. We’ve had one established in Tabernacle. We have a farmer in Saddlers who has one (and) a farmer in Mansion. So, we have a few established already and we are studying them.”
Having a “monkey-proof house” was also discussed. “The best I can put it is that it’s like a gigantic fish pot,” he explained. “It is made with fish pot wire. Just as you have greenhouses with plastics, rather than plastic, it’s a mesh wire, but it’s big enough for a tractor to go in and do its operations. There is nothing special about it other than it prevents the monkey itself from getting in and it covers a certain square footage that one can make planting a crop or two really profitable.”
Edwards noted that the two methods call for significant investment. He said that records will be acquired to show that once money is invested in the methods, and the monkeys have been successfully warded off, there is a great chance that there will be returns on their investment and more.
In terms of the reduction of the population, one solution is trapping, said Edwards. “Over the years, we’ve had excellent people who are adept and skilled at studying the monkeys and being able to put traps in place that catch them,” he said. “At the moment, we have one person on payroll trapping monkeys. We are in the process of getting at least three more. Their job on payroll would be to catch monkeys.”
Once trapped, the primates can be cooked and eaten, he said. He mentioned that the colloquial term for the meat is “tree mutton.”
“Our Eat Local Day, which was recently held, always has tree mutton there. I understand that every time the churches have their food fair, they ask for the tree mutton,” said Edwards.
The permanent secretary revealed that the meat is also sent to Antiqua when they are having events as well. “We wish this could be a more popular activity in that people seek out the tree mutton and bring down the population,” he said.
Another solution discussed to reduce crop destruction is to plant more fruit trees in the mountains so that the monkeys will have food there and not have the need to come to the lowland.