Monkey Forest Tales: Crop-raiding by primate species and some possible solutions

Unamas-San Camilo-Sept 2013 227

A maize crop next to a forest fragment in the study area.

One of the main problems of wildlife living close to human housing or settlements is the conflict generated but this closeness. One of the most complicated problems is crop-raiding or the use of crops by wild monkeys causing some loss for the people who depend on them. This is the topic of our post today.

In the study area and in general, in the region, crop-raiding is more commonly done by black-capped capuchins which sometimes is joined by squirrel monkeys. However, depending on the crop black-capped capuchins can be more destructive. That is one of the reasons why they are generally seen as a pest. Some of the crops in which they cause damage in the study area are citrus crops (mandarin and orange), maize (this is the reason for the local name in Spanish “maiceros”), banana, manioc, mango, avocado, and palm oil.

Although the economic cost of the damage caused by monkeys in the crops of this area has not been calculated, the people’s perception is that it is high. Therefore, they usually take measures to control the monkey’s damage. Some of these measures are as strong as killing some individuals or complete groups and others are less strong such as noises to repel them, or the use of dogs in the periphery of the crops.

One of the main reasons for monkeys to use crops as food sources is because the food inside of the forest fragments is scarce. And this is increased if the crop is planted close to the forest edge, giving them more accessibility to the crops with less risk, especially from predators.

This problem is common in all countries with monkeys’ populations living in close proximity with humans in rural and urban areas. Although in some of these places there are a series of strategies to deter monkeys to get close to the crop and produce damage, not all these measures work well. Some of the measures used to deter monkeys to crop-raiding are the use of dogs, a variety of devices to produce loud noises to scare the monkeys, the use of bees in the periphery of small orchards, and killing of problematic individuals. However, all these measures are used when the problem of crop-raiding is already happening and none of these measures prevent crop-raiding.

Some strategies that can reduce the impacts of crop-raiding, especially when the groups are not so used to feed on crops and didn’t depend on them for survival are:

1) reduce the selective logging inside of forest fragments close to crop plots

2) crop plots distance from forest fragments edges of more than 300 m

3) maintain the forest fragments quality by reducing natural product extraction from those forests

Although all these strategies tend to reduce crop-raiding from monkeys’ species, some of their skills can make crop-raiding reduction a challenge and a rotation of the deter measures has been proposed are successful in some places. More detailed information on the actual economic loss for people is still needing it in the study area although it had been done for primates in other countries and for other species of monkeys.

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