Posted by: Loren Coleman on December 23rd, 2008
Chupacabras reports from the 1990s in Puerto Rico said they were upright furry primates. Could the accounts have been of escaped monkeys?
Read what the background eyewitness story from the island that happened in August 2008, concerning the above photograph, as published in Puerto Rico: A Paradise Lost?:
While driving up a narrow passage of a washed out mountain path I was shocked to see something walking in the distance under the tree line. I had just turned around as the road became absolutely impassible for anything less than a 4×4 designed for specifically for extreme conditions… and definitely too much for my Jeep.
Was that a monkey? Are they Puerto Rican Monkeys?
As I caught a glimpse of one of them from the back, moving away from me, I thought: “Was that a Kangaroo?“. The strange long legs and stride, from the back, looked a lot like a marsupial.
I had my camera in the back. I jumped out to get it. I wanted photographic evidence of this whether is was some species of monkey not supposed to be in Puerto Rico, or the Chupacabra itself! I shut down the engine and waited to see if they might double back. After about 10 minutes, I figured I had startled them and decided to leave. Just as I went to turn the key I saw a parade of brown legs moving under the tree line. It was a pack of monkeys!
News is coming out of the island this week that released and escaped Patas and Rhesus monkeys, so on the loose for 30 years, are being killed and caught. Could they be the source of startled eyewitness accounts from thirteen years ago of Chupacabras?
The following Orlando Sentinel news item from Lajas, Puerto Rico, summarizes the story of the out-of-place monkeys, including an account of a Puerto Rican mountain lion.
The easy life is over for hundreds of monkeys — some harboring herpes and hepatitis — that have run wild through southwestern Puerto Rico for more than 30 years.
Authorities launched a plan this month to capture and kill the monkeys before they spread across the entire island, threatening agriculture, native wildlife and people. But some animal experts and the farmers who have complained for years about the rhesus and patas monkeys think it may be too late.
“I don’t honestly believe they will ever get rid of the patas monkeys in Puerto Rico,” said Mark Wilson, director of the Florida International Teaching Zoo, which has helped find zoos willing to take some of the animals. “They may go deep into the forest, but they will never go away. There’s just too many of them, and they are too smart.”
Monkeys caught in traps
At least 1,000 monkeys from at least 11 colonies populate the Lajas Valley. After a year of study, rangers began trapping them in cages about 10 feet long, baited with food and equipped with a trip lever. Two of 16 monkeys were released with radio collars for further tracking. Each of the others was killed with one shot from a .22-caliber rifle.
Officials determined shooting the monkeys was more humane than lethal injection, said Secretary of Natural Resources Javier Velez Arrocho. He said he regrets having to kill the animals but had no choice after scores of organizations rejected them.
Some of the monkeys were sent to a teaching zoo in Sumter County in 2007, and a troop of about 15 monkeys escaped earlier this year from a wildlife preserve near Lakeland.
No public protests
Animal treatment is a sensitive topic in Puerto Rico, which was in the spotlight last year after about 80 dogs and cats were seized from a housing project and hurled off a bridge. In May, a veterinarian confirmed that more than 400 racehorses, many in perfect health, are killed by injection in Puerto Rico each year. Both cases sparked widespread criticism. But the elimination of pesky monkeys has not spawned public protests.
“My personal opinion is that I would rather see them put to sleep than put through horrible experiments,” said Sally Figueroa, a board member of the animal-welfare group Pare Este in the eastern city of Fajardo.
The scourge of non-native animals is particularly acute in Puerto Rico because of its lush climate and lack of predators. Several species of snakes, crocodiles, caimans and alligators — imported, kept as pets, then released into the wild — now flourish in more than 30 rivers, said Sgt. Angel Atienza, a ranger who specializes in exotic animals.
As Atienza spoke, his agents were investigating reports of a mountain lion running wild in hills near the small central town of Adjuntas.
Animal controls costly
The Lajas monkeys arrived in the 1960s and ’70s after escaping research facilities on small islands off the mainland. They adapted easily, fueled by plentiful crops.
The creatures cost about $300,000 in annual damage and more than $1 million in indirect ways, such as forcing farmers to plant less profitable crops that don’t attract the animals, according to an analysis by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and other agencies. The monkeys are also blamed for a dramatic drop in the valley’s bird population.
Lacking resources, the Puerto Rican government has made only sporadic attempts to control the monkeys in the past. Last year, however, the island’s agricultural and wildlife agencies secured $1.8million from the territorial government, allowing them to track, study and begin trying to eliminate the Lajas Valley populations. Ben Fox