Wednesday, April 14, 2010

No Alimentar los Monos

a-li-men-tar /v./ - to feed

All students who pass through our base in Manuel Antonio love to see the surrounding trees filled with titi monkeys swinging from tree to tree in perfect view from our three-story base windows. Students watch them as they wake up and eat breakfast every morning. But they have to keep that breakfast to themselves and out of the hands of those monkeys if they want to help the environment, keep people safe, and keep monkeys safe.

A piece of paper on our base's refigerator lists "10 Reasons You Should Not Feed the Monkeys":

1. The monkeys are very susceptible to diseases transmitted by human hands. Monkeys can die from transferred bacteria.
2. Migration to areas populated by humans (for food) increases the risk of dog attacks and car accidents.
3. Irregular feeding leads to aggressive behavior toward humans and other species.*
4. Contrary to the stereotype, bananas are not the favorite food of wild monkeys. Bananas - especially those containing pesticides - can disrupt the delicate digestive system of monkeys and cause serious dental problems that may eventually lead to death.
5. Feeding the monkeys creates a dangerous dependency on humans that diminishes the survival skills of the monkeys.
6. Feeding the monkeys interferes with the natural habits of the monkeys and alters the balance of their lifestyle centered on eating wild fruits, seeds, small animals and insects.
7. Contact with humans facilitates poaching and illegal wildlife trade.
8. If pregnant monkeys eat only bananas during pregnancy, the baby is at risk of malnourishment. Some never develop to term and die before birth.
9. Monkeys have to travel an average of 17 kilometers each day to be in good physical condition. If they know food is available in a certain place (from people), they do not leave that area and get the exercise they need.
10. Not only can humans transmit diseases to animals when feeding them by hand, but they can pass diseases to humans as well.

*Debbie Mayer, one of the staff members in the communications office, knows #3 quite well. On a trip to the Cahuita National Park earlier this year, she stopped along the path to take pictures of many monkeys in the trees nearby. Suddenly she noticed how close they were getting, just before one jumped onto her tote bag to which she reacted by throwing the bag on the ground. The monkeys then sifted through her bag to find one pineapple slice to eat! (See photo on right) She had to use a stick to get her tote bag back. Apparently, someone had fed these monkeys some of the delicious pineapple - sold at the park's entrance - before.

Think twice the next time you're passing through one of Costa Rica's many national parks and want to share your food with the monkeys; you never know what foods they'll crave later from innocent passers-by.

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