Nature & Wildlife

The Only Monkey On Our Island

My name is Sheryl and I live off the grid, on a remote tropical island. Our island has no monkey population, or so we thought. Over the last 2 years , we have been pleased to have one monkey visit us. We have no idea how he came to the island but we suspect that he was a pet that was released into the wild.

Pablo, a White Faced Capuchin monkey.
This is Pablo, A male White Faced Capuchin monkey.
Pablo, a White Faced Capuchin monkey.

Pablo, has survived on his own for a few years on our island. He most likely feeds off the local banana plants on the island and is a scavenger.

He travels great distances and can cover a great deal of territory in one day. The other residents on the island often post on Facebook when he comes around to their homes as well. When he visits our area he is like a little Tasmanian devil. He can go on porches and knock things over. He is very habituated and unnaturally accustomed to human and domesticated animal contact. His favorite hobby is teasing our dogs. They are actually friends I think. He will climb in our rafters and snicker at the dogs and a chase around our wrap around porch is adorable.

Pablo, a White Faced Capuchin monkey.

Pablo roaming the porches on our neighbor’s home.

Most people on the island were pleased about his visits as we had felt we were missing out on the monkey visits our friends on other islands enjoy.

Sadly though Pablo developed a problem. He started walking around clutching onto baby sloths. Once he was with a dead sloth. He was not displaying aggression and seemed to be caring for it. At first I thought maybe he was finding them, already dead. But then I started to receive reports that he had been seen with a live baby sloth before.

I started to become concerned about Pablo and his behavior. Some people on the island felt the same way, while others were angry with him and not pleased at all. I also became concerned that this poor monkey was in danger as a few people wanted to harm him, punish him or outright kill him.

I took it upon myself to look into what had changed with our sweet monkey. The professionals I consulted with, all agreed, that Pablo was lonely and thus acting out. It is not natural for monkeys to live alone. They all agreed they did not think he was taking sloths from their mothers but perhaps finding them after a fall or if they had been abandoned. There was a consensuses among the professionals that he alone would not attack a sloth. This type of behavior happens in groups of monkeys on occasion.

Pablo, a White Faced Capuchin monkey.

In Panama, where I live, we are currently under strict quarantine due to the Covid-19 pandemic. I believe this has given me time to do some research, and learn what the best path forward is for this lonely monkey. My conclusion, after much investigation and concurrent planning was there was no easy solution.

I actually had a possible relocation site for him through a caring person who said she had 35 acres he could be relocated to. As i started to make plans as to how to capture him however, I decided this may not be the best way forward.

By now word had spread about Pablo to other island in our expat community. I had several discussions with many people and told them I was putting together a plan for Pablo. After careful consideration, I decided to write a letter to the community to fill them in on the situation. My goal was to inform, educate and possibly save this monkey’s life. Here is the letter I posted:

“A message about our Solarte Monkey.

Most of you are aware of the monkey, the only monkey on Solarte.  He is an example of someone thinking having a monkey as a pet is a great idea and then sets him free when he matures and is no longer a cute baby.

It is a sad situation indeed as monkeys are not meant to live alone.

I personally have enjoyed his visits as have others.  There has however been concern about his behavior over the last 6 months or so.  I share the concern over his taking baby sloths and the fear he will go after our small pets.

I have taken it upon myself to talk with professionals who say he is acting out because he is lonely.  He is most likely not stealing sloths from their mothers, but may be finding them on the ground, or left alone.  If he was taking them out of aggression, he would be violent with them and waving them around.  From what I have seen, he is caring for them in his own way.

Knowing why he is acting this way does not help the feelings people have regarding the sloth population or their small pets, or the trauma visitors might have over seeing him with a baby sloth.

We have looked at options for the monkey that might alleviate the situation.  One option was to bring a female to our island, possibly repopulate monkeys here. Personally, I think that would be awesome, but in this situation, we must defer to the experts.  They say that Solarte is not large enough to have a thriving community with enough biodiversity for offspring to be healthy.

Another option is to relocate him to a larger island.  At first thought, this would seem like another reasonable solution.  The issue that makes this unadvisable is that he is a male monkey and will probably not only still be alone, he will most likely be attacked by the other males.

A third option was to possibly relocate him to a facility to care for him.  This could be a possibility, but he would probably end up in a cage to start.  If he did not get along with the others monkeys, that is where he would stay.  I think this would not be in his best interests. 

In every investigation I have made, every inquiry, every conversation, my main priority has been what is best for the monkey.  This is not his fault and he is acting out, because he is lonely.

I have recently been in contact with a great person who said he could come to her property that is on a large island, away from people.  Catching him would be very tricky as he is very smart. But possible.

There has been talk online and in a group I was party to on Facebook and through posts about the monkey, about punishing the monkey, trapping him and killing him.  Although I understand the concerns about sloths and pets. my response to those comments and suggested acts is that the monkey has more of a right to live here then you do.  

We all chose to live in the jungle.  By doing so we accept that we live in nature and some of the dangers of living here in the dense rainforest.  We deal with snakes, scorpions, spiders, barracudas, occasional sharks, fire ants, caimen, monkeys and a huge diversity of animals and insects.  It is a jungle out here and we have all moved into the wild.  We can want to domesticate the islands, but they are in essence the best of nature.  This is also why we love living here.

So, if you are afraid this monkey or any animal may get your pet, I get that.  But you brought that animal to the jungle and all of the inherent dangers that accompany living here.

I have had time over our quarantine period to seriously give this situation some thought and after careful consideration, my thought is that there is no good solution for this monkey.  In my mind, I have been trying to save his life, maybe give him a chance to mate and thrive.  Perhaps being around other monkeys would stop this behavior. 

I have spoken or texted with many people about this issue and talked about finding a solution.  There is no solution.  If we release him on another island he will most likely not survive.  If he goes to a rescue he may or may not be living out his life in a cage. If we leave him in place, some angry person may decide to kill or harm him.

This is where I stand, and I hope others will understand.  The monkey will in the long run, live here on Isla Solarte.  He knows the land, visits people who like him and has managed to survive here.  I do fear for his life as it seems he has a price on his head.  My thought on that is if someone on this island, is upset and angry enough to take that monkey’s life, that ruthless decision will be on them.” End

I am choosing to share this story because people need to realize that adopting wild animals as pets can have serious consequences. Your cute tiger cub or monkey starts off playful. Then as the animal matures into adolescents, he or she becomes more aggressive and grows stronger. Owners are left with little choice, a rescue center, setting the animal free in the wild or even some are forced to consider euthanizing the animal.

So what is the solution? It is simple. Do not take a wild animal in as a pet. It is that simple. Our poor monkey is a perfect example of how interfering with wild animals and the natural lives they are meant to lead, can go terribly sideways.

I can not say what Pablo’s future will be. I do know that I will continue to advocate for him. Already, at the time of this post, many people in the community have read my original post about Pablo’s situation and we have received some very wonderful suggestions. The top ideas I am going to move forward with are buying a doll for him that has a human heart beat, some baby mirrors so he can see another monkey face, and perhaps some areas in the wild that will intrigue and occupy his attention. The proverbial jungle gym comes to mind.

White Faced Capuchins are extremely intelligent, elegant and beautiful animals. I am proud to have this experience with Pablo. I am also thankful to live in such a wonderful and caring community here in Panama.

About The Author

Sheryl and Lili

I am an adventurous artist and author who lives off the grid, on an island, in the rain forest. Living in this remote location, only accessible by boat, offers me a unique perspective and provides an abundance of inspiration. I have an incredible opportunity to discover new and diverse people, customs and traditions, as well intriguing local indigenous communities. This wonderful experience has truly changed my life and influences my writing and art every day.

I am currently writing a narrative non-fiction book about our local monkey rescue organization. My hope is to shed light on the consequences of having monkeys or other wild animals as pets and create support for our local animal rescue.

In addition to my children’s picture books, “Agador and Mila’s Jungle Adventure”, and “Holly The Hummingbird”, I also create tropical watercolor and driftwood paintings, as well as fine art photography.

My island gallery is located on an island in the Bocas del Toro Archipelago, in the Bocas del Toro Province of Panama.

Bocas Artist | Art Studio & Gallery
www.bocasartist.com
To find out more about me visit my website at Picture Book Island and my portfolio at https://www.picturebookisland.com/Bearman%20Portfolio4a.pdf

You can follow me on twitter at @PbIbooks

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