University of Costa Rica and COOPEGUANACASTE, R.L. Signed an Agreement to Protect the Monkeys of the Peninsula
The sound of howler monkeys cannot be ignored. This unique sound is part of our landscape. They seek food and water in forest patches that are shrinking because of the messy growth of our communities.
Electrocution on power lines, collision with vehicles passing through busy streets, lack of food (due to deforestation), accidents in razor wire, and cruelty of man towards them are some of the greatest threats to their survival.
In order to preserve the life of these animals and other wild species of the Nicoya Peninsula, COOPEGUANACASTE, RL and the University of Costa Rica (UCR) signed an agreement to conduct a research in places where the cooperative’s power lines may affect the movement of wildlife. The students and UCR biologists in charge of carrying out the study will have the logistical and financial support of COOPEGUANACASTE, RL. The research will include results on genetics and ecosystem health.
The origin of this alliance comes from Tamarindo. Through the Association Salvémonos, an environmental organization in charge of protecting the monkeys of the community, led by Patricia Sterman and Simone Daniele, the University of Costa Rica conducted a research on the behavior of monkey troops that were in danger of electrocution.
Efforts of Salvémonos and the UCR have allowed the development of an initial study that went from 2009 to 2010 on 66.4 acres in the area of Tamarindo, in five patches of forest. The study mentions that they found troops only in four of the patches studied. According to the study, in 2009, there were 123 individuals grouped into nine troops, while in 2010 there were 125 individuals in 11 troops.
Elena Echandi, student of the Masters’ program in Sustainable Development at UCR and member of Salvémonos has made further studies in Tamarindo on the effect of human activities on wildlife. Because of these studies, we could better understand the habits of the populations of howler monkeys (Alouatta palliata) and thus COOPEGUANACASTE, RL, Salvémonos, local businesses, and community organizations identified the sites where it was necessary to place bridges between power lines and took other measures to lessen the shock of animals.
Given the good results obtained in Tamarindo, COOPEGUANACASTE, R.L. considered appropriate to extend this initiative to the whole Nicoya Peninsula, in the areas where the cooperative offers its services.
Bridges Reduced Animal Electrocution
According to Elena Echandi, the incidence of deaths and electrocutions has been reduced almost to a minimum. "Animals use the monkey bridges instead of the power lines. Measures are applied as to pruning in order to prevent the passageway of arboreal animals in dangerous areas where branches may lead animals to the power lines. Pruning and cones force the animals to use safer «roads»," she said.
For the vet Gilberth Pazzami Cavallini, a veterinarian based in the area, who has treated many of monkeys that have been electrocuted, electrocutions have been reduced over the past two years. "Now, in a month, only one or two howler monkeys electrocuted are brought to the clinic for attention; before, I had 6 to 8 cases", he said.
Echandi said that she has also seen animals in areas where there were none years ago. "Thanks to the bridges, they have been able to link forest patches, so that in some areas inhabited by monkeys for many years but recently abandoned by the species (they were forced to retreat) are now been populated again by these individuals. That is such a great joy! ,"she said.
Miguel Gomez, General Manager of COOPEGUANACASTE, RL made emphasis on the importance of this agreement, as he consider it an opportunity to expand the positive impact of the measures promoted. Meanwhile, Gustavo Gutierrez, Director of the School of Biology at UCR, said that the university will continue keeping to its commitment to the country for sustainable development in harmony with nature, for the conservation of biodiversity, along with its alliances with the private sector and organized community groups.
Salvémonos: Understanding To Make the Difference
A sad story of a person witnessing the death of some howler monkeys became a story of redemption and love for nature. Patricia Sterman, helplessly, saw how the power lines electrocuted some monkeys. Immediately, she thought about doing something. Determined, she began to seek for help and knock on every door.
At a meeting of the Asociación Pro Mejoras de Playa Tamarindo (a community association) in 2004, Sterman met Simona Daniele, who was also concerned about this situation. Back then, they decided to do something about the number of monkeys that died electrocuted every month in Guanacaste. Through the support of their own companies, Hotel Luna Llena and Azul Profundo Boutique, they invested $500 each for printing T-shirts with images of the rescuing project. Proceeds from the sale were appointed to putting up the first bridge. Their willpower took them much further. They started to build bridges, learned how to improve them, and sought support from institutions and companies that could sponsor the program. It was not easy.
Tamarindo News reported on it when they were just starting. Contacting the University of Costa Rica was a very important step because they were now able to initiate studies that would determine the conditions of these animals, their threats, and possible (and more comprehensive) solutions. Then, they contacted COOPEGUANACASTE, R.L., as the distributor of electric power in the area, and requested it an active part in this protection effort. Through this alliance, more bridges were put up, anti-climbing cones were installed in the anchors that hold the posts, and information has been exchanged to address priority sites where there was risk of this type of accidents.
Their ongoing struggle to improve the life conditions of howler monkeys was the inspiration that worked as the basis for signing the agreement between COOPEGUANACASTE, RL and the UCR. This successful model was able to reduce the number of deaths of monkeys in Tamarindo due to electrocution. Therefore, it has now been emulated by other communities that have requested the support of Salvémonos in areas such as Playa Hermosa, Playas del Coco, Playa Grande, Playa Junquillal, Playa Negra, Avellanas, and Sugar Beach.
According to Salvémonos, animals must return to their natural habitat. They have supported veterinary clinics and institutions that have collaborated in restoring the monkey troops and releasing the animals. "Salvémonos is completely against the domestication of wild animals. In order to preserve these species and their natural instincts, animals should not have contact with humans. They should not be in public places, or caged, "explained Patricia.
Salvémonos’ protection strategy is based on reforestation, signage, and awareness efforts. In 2001, the Municipality of Santa Cruz approved it, since it has environmental education programs for schools, road signage, and reforestation campaigns for (municipal) green areas in Langosta and Tamarindo. The latter activity will take place on June 12.
Salvémonos is doing something; it is actually taking hold of the words once said by Jane Goodall, the iconic and respected British primatologist that visited Guanacaste in 2004:
"... What you do makes a difference, and you have to decide what kind of difference you want to make. Only if we understand, we can care. Only if we care, we can help. Only if we help, they will be saved. The greatest danger to our future is apathy. "