Tiny Island Mulls Eating Nuisance Monkeys

Vervet monkeys arrived on slave ships 300 years ago

By Greg Wilson
|  Wednesday, Oct 5, 2011  |  Updated 11:15 AM EDT
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Tiny Island Mulls Eating Nuisance Monkeys

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Vervet monkeys are driving residents of a Caribbean island crazy.

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Residents of two tiny two islands in the Caribbean are fed up with an exploding population of Vervet Monkeys that ravages agriculture,  and one solution being floated is to round them up and eat them.

The 50,000 residents of St. Kitts and Nevis, a tiny two-island federation about 215 miles east of Puerto Rico, have co-existed with the two-foot-tall, 12-pound primates for hundreds of years, since slave ships brought them from West Africa. But with the population of vervets soaring, the critters' ravenous appetite for fruit, flowers, eggs or anything else they can find, has islanders fighting back.

"Crop losses are tremendous. We have some farmers who lose everything," Randy Elliott, agricultural supervisor in Nevis, told The Associated Press.

The monkeys have become bolder, mounting their raids from the forests with increasing regularity. And, Elliott says, they're getting stronger.

"They're getting more muscular," he said. "I've seen males with six-pack abs."

Gene Knight, policy research analyst for St. Kitts' agriculture ministry, said strategies for controlling the vervet population, estimated at 25,000 or more, could include more trapping. But that raises two problems: The monkeys are beloved by tourists, whose money the islands depend upon. And then, what can e done with the monkeys once they are caught?

The could be "simply euthanized, or sold, or used to manufacture dog food or eaten, or whatever, is still an ongoing discussion," Knight said.

Joseph Kelly, a St. Kitts resident in his 60s, told the AP getting more people to eat vervet, once a common practice, is the most practical solution.

"When you skin it you'd be surprised at how much meat some of those monkeys have on their bones," he said. "Cook it up in a stew, well, it's very nice, very flavorful. Tastes a lot like goat. Why, I'd like some right now."

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