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Facts about the Monkeys on the Island of Saint Kitts

MsDora grew up, received early education and taught school in the Caribbean. Read her love and pride of the region—people and place.

St. Kitts: Blessed with natural charms is the title of William Ham Bevan's article in the September 2012 issue of the British Daily Telegraph. Included in his description of the island’s flora and fauna is the following statement. “Another signature sight is the green vervet monkey – you’ll see troops of them playing in hotel gardens or lazing under palm fronds.”

Monkey drinks Carib, the local beer.

Monkey drinks Carib, the local beer.

StKittsMonkeys reports that vervet monkeys were first brought to the island as pets by the French during the 1600s. Other sources say that they first arrived with the West African slaves who came to work in the rum industry. Undisputed though, is the fact that some monkeys acquired a taste for alcohol and actually became drunks, by drinking the fermented juice of sugar canes left in the fields.

This article discusses their drunkenness and other facts about monkeys on the island of Saint Kitts.


Vervet Monkeys Studied for Drinking Habits

Research conducted with 1,000 vervet monkeys from Saint Kitts determined that their drinking habits were similar to the habits of humans.

  • Like humans, genes influence their liking for alcohol.
  • Like humans, most monkeys (social drinkers) drink in moderation.
  • Fifteen percent (steady drinkers) prefer their alcohol diluted.
  • Five percent (binge drinkers)—drink fast, get in fights and get drunk.
  • Fifteen percent (teetotalers) refuse to drink alcohol, and prefer soft drinks.
  • Unlike humans, monkeys which do not drink show no disrespect for those which do.

Their sneaky methods of obtaining drinks can be viewed in a BBC:Weird Nature YouTube video. Visitors to the beach bars at Turtle Beach on the island’s eastern peninsula report fun stories of seeing the drinking monkeys in action.

Vervet monkeys at aTurtle Beach bar, Saint Kitts

Vervet monkeys at aTurtle Beach bar, Saint Kitts

Monkeys Studied in Research on Stem Cells

The Biomedical Research Foundation founded by Yale Professor Eugene Redmond uses monkeys from Saint Kitts in research on stem cells or gene therapy. Some research is done on the island but monkeys are also shipped to labs in North America. Redmond sees the research as one way to help control the monkey population, but the Animal Rights Foundation (ARF) of Florida is calling on St. Kitts to ban export of the monkeys for research purposes.

ARF has posted a letter on their website with a request that readers send it to the Prime Ministers on the islands of Saint Kitts and Nevis, and to their Ministers of Tourism appealing to them to ban export of the monkeys. They favor the recommendation by the St. Kitts & Nevis Ministry of Agriculture (June 2010) to sterilize the monkeys and provide alternative feeding sites.

A January 2012 entry on SKN List stated "The Government of St. Kitts and Nevis said that while it is concerned about the threat by monkeys to farming and animal rights, the green monkey population is a unique resource to biomedical research and drug development." It estimated that there are 18,000 monkeys in Saint Kitts although it is believed that the population is much larger.

In a West Indian News Network article published in January 2013, Andre Huie reported, “Monkeys continue to be a problem for farmers in St. Kitts and Nevis and there seems to be very few options or solutions to the challenge."

Vervet Monkeys Pose Threat to Natives

The monkeys live in the forest, but usually make their way into the neighborhoods to look for food, especially after the summer when the mango trees in the mountains are bare. Ripe fruit is their favorite food. They obtain it easily by quick jumps, climbs and runs through the farmer’s fields or the homemaker’s garden . They seem to eat anything: from the breadfruit and banana for which they have to climb, to cucumber and squash on the crawling vine. They also eat root vegetables.

Residents are at their wit’s end trying to protect their crops. Some locals insist that there are more monkeys than people, but one study suggests a ratio of 2:1 in favor of the residents, and another differs slightly stating 1:5 people to 1 monkey.

In neighborhoods near wooded areas, it is not unusual to see a monkey strolling on the roof, crossing the street or sitting on a fence eating a stolen banana. Some residents have devised their own method of controlling the monkey population. They serve monkey meat to their dogs, and a few older people eat it themselves.

Monkey eating sugar cane

Monkey eating sugar cane

Kittitian Idioms Make References to Monkeys

Reference to the behavior of monkeys is a regular part of language on the island. For example, here are three popular idioms with their meanings:

  • Monkey see, monkey do.

This statement suggests that someone did something for no other reason that he or she saw someone else doing it.

  • Monkey know what tree to climb on.

This is said as a warning or threat by someone who will not tolerate provocation. That person compares himself or herself to the tree. The would-be nuisance is the monkey. The monkey must be smart enough to figure out which tree it can jump on without suffering any consequence.

  • Monkey can’t carry gun.

A monkey with a gun could be dangerous. If a someone asked for a tool, a responsibility, a position or anything which he or she is not considered equipped to use effectively, this would be a way of saying that his or her request is ludicrous.

Observations from Tourists

Judith Baker who toured the island in December 2013, reports in MailOnline, "St Kitts has an Atlantic and a Caribbean coast, black sand and white sand, more monkeys than you can shake a stick at and the region’s only railroad. Get on board while you can still get a seat."

Obviously, there's more to St.Kitts than monkeys, and Judith is very kind to extend the invitation for others to come see.

Trip Advisor adds (updated 2016): "Probably the most reliable area on Nevis [sister island to St.Kitts] for visitors to see monkeys is in the grounds of Golden Rock Hotel . . . If you are lucky enough to come across the troop in a quiet place where you can sit and watch them for an hour or so, you will be amazed to see their highly organized social structure, and if you are close enough, you will hear a wide range of quiet vocalizations as they communicate with one another." Awesome!

© 2013 Dora Weithers

Comments

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on April 07, 2015:

Thanks, Alun. The monkeys now co-exist with us beautifully. They've been on my porch, in my papaya tree, and more. They have to live, so we smile when they trespass, but they do eat our food. I'm torn between using them and not using them for research. Hope we can find a way to keep them in check.

Greensleeves Hubs from Essex, UK on April 06, 2015:

Interesting Dora! I wasn't aware that there are African monkeys on St Kitts. Should they be there? I'm not over keen on the idea of introducing species into foreign lands, because it can cause untold damage to the local ecology, but I guess the vervets have been there long enough now, almost to be considered as native! Either way, they must be an interesting and comical addition to the island's wildlife and presumably appeal to the tourists, if not to all the locals! I take it there are no New World monkeys on the island?

I've never quite made up my own mind about medical animal research. I must admit that when it comes to primates, I think I oppose it because undoubtedly monkeys have the intelligence and feelings to experience suffering. I can however, understand the arguments in support of research.

An interesting, well presented article Dora, covering all aspects of monkey life, and nice to read a few more Kittitian idioms! Alun.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on July 27, 2013:

Come to Saint Kitts, Scarlett Rain, and enjoy our very smart, very popular green vervet monkeys. You see them just about everywhere.

Scarlett Rain from Bakersfield on July 26, 2013:

I love monkeys, this hub is very interesting (:

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 17, 2013:

Alocsin, please don't put off your trip much longer. Even the monkeys will greet you and entertain you.

Aurelio Locsin from Orange County, CA on March 17, 2013:

Certainly another interesting to see at St. Kitts. Voting this Up and Useful.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 17, 2013:

Thanks, Paul. There's much I did not know about monkeys until I prepared for this article. My interest peeked when I saw one perched on the fence across the street from me. Then I realized they were my neighbors.

Paul Richard Kuehn from Udorn City, Thailand on March 16, 2013:

msdora,

This is a very interesting hub. I never realized monkeys can get addicted to alcohol like humans. There are a lot of monkeys in Thailand, too. In some places there are small hills completely inhabited by monkeys. Voted up as interesting and sharing. Also Pinning.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 16, 2013:

Mhatter99, I appreciate you reading and commenting. It is really fascinating the way the monkeys have established themselves in the lives of Kittitians.

Martin Kloess from San Francisco on March 16, 2013:

Fascinating. Thank you for putting this together.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 15, 2013:

Torrilyn, monkey facts interest me too. Glad you liked this article, and thanks for letting me know.

Dora Weithers (author) from The Caribbean on March 15, 2013:

Thanks DDE. Glad you learned something. I did too. Imagine that I live among them and wasn't even aware of these facts.

torrilynn on March 15, 2013:

MsDora,

it is always interesting to learn about monkeys

and the facts behind them and their environment

I learned a lot of interesting things

Voted up

Devika Primić from Dubrovnik, Croatia on March 15, 2013:

Incredible information here on Monkey Facts Related to the Island of Saint Kitts, so interesting and I enjoy learning something new. Voted up and interesting