A non-native white-faced capuchin monkey sighted in Jack’s Hill, St Andrew on Tuesday was captured the following day and is now in quarantine undergoing tests to determine if it is the host of diseases.
News of the mammal’s capture was released yesterday by the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA), which noted that the importation and/or trade of these non-native species without requisite permits are illegal under the Endangered Species (Protection, Conservation and Regulation of Trade) Act.
According to NEPA, the presence of the white-faced capuchin monkey (Cebus imitator) “poses significant risk to Jamaica’s terrestrial ecosystem and agricultural sector”. The mammal is also a carrier of the hepatitis virus, rabies and other dangerous diseases, which can be transmitted to human beings, NEPA added.
Word of the monkey sighting in the upscale Jack’s Hill community started circulating on WhatsApp on Tuesday. A team consisting of representatives from NEPA, the Veterinary Services Division, Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and Jamaica Constabulary Force responded to the reports.
“As part of the investigation, the immediate environment as well as the premises suspected of harbouring the monkey were searched. However, that effort was unsuccessful,” NEPA explained in a news release yesterday.
The team, NEPA said, left baited traps overnight and the monkey had been caught in one of them the following morning.
NEPA said that in recent months it has been tracking the increasing number of reports of monkey sightings across the island. “Reports were received from St Ann, St Elizabeth and St Andrew,” the agency said.
Dr Osbil Watson, chief veterinary officer at the Veterinary Services Division, said “the division has always been concerned about the frequency of reports of sightings of exotic animal species. This situation is no doubt a direct threat to public health and safety as it relates to non-human primates, which have the potential to transmit pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites to humans”.
According to NEPA, it will take a decision, in collaboration with the Veterinary Services Division, on the fate of the monkey once the results of the tests are received.
Yesterday, NEPA explained that an offence under the Endangered Species (Protection, Conservation and Regulation of Trade) Act can attract a fine of not more than $2 million and/or up to two years’ imprisonment.
The agency said it was encouraging the public to continue reporting any sightings of monkeys or other exotic animals that are not native to Jamaica by calling 876-754-7540 or toll-free 888-991-5005.
The Convention on Biodiversity states that “invasive alien species are plants, animals, pathogens and other organisms that are non-native to an ecosystem, and which may cause economic or environmental harm or adversely affect human health.
“In particular, they impact adversely upon biodiversity, including decline or elimination of native species — through competition, predation, or transmission of pathogens — and the disruption of local ecosystems and ecosystem functions. Invasive alien species, introduced and/or spread outside their natural habitats, have affected native biodiversity in almost every ecosystem type on earth and are one of the greatest threats to biodiversity”