Monday, March 21, 2005

An army of marauding monkeys is plundering Puerto Rico

junk monkey

An army of marauding monkeys is plundering Puerto Rico, skulking the island in packs of 20 to 30, tormenting farmers and homeowners, endangering rare birds and attacking household pets.

They're a clever lot, too, sneaking around so humans can't get too close, and rotating their feeding areas so their food supply can't be contaminated.

"You should see when they cross the road: One of them will stand in the middle of the street and let all the others pass," said Freddie Cruz, who directs the Lajas Civil Defense Agency. "I get calls all the time from homeowners wanting me to come over and get these things out of their yards."

Frustrated farmers, fed up with the loss of their crops, have responded by shooting the pesky primates.

And their actions, predictably, have outraged animal-rights groups, which are insisting that the monkeys be trapped and returned to their native homelands on the other side of the world.

On this much everyone agrees: A solution must be found because these animals -- descendants of the patas and rhesus monkeys that escaped from a medical-research lab years ago -- are a fertile, aggressive bunch.

The population stands at 1,000 to 2,000 and is growing every day.

"We recognize there's a big problem," said José Chabert, a director of Puerto Rico's Department of Environmental & Natural Resources. "If we don't get a handle on this problem soon, we are going to see these populations of aggressive monkeys all over the island."

In a few weeks, Chabert's organization will convene a series of public hearings to look for solutions.

So far, shooting the animals, trapping them, sterilizing them and baiting them with poison are all on the table.

Story here.

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