Time running out for 'Monkey Island' devastated by Hurricane Maria
Read the full article at The Telegraph.
A monkey sanctuary used by scientists for decades to conduct groundbreaking evolutionary research has been completely devastated by Hurricane Maria.
In the 1938 more than 400 rhesus macaques were released on to Cayo Santiago, located off the southeast coast of Puerto Rico, by American primatologist Clarence Ray Carpenter.
For nearly 80 years, the research facility, dubbed ‘Monkey Island’ has been used by scores of institutions to carry out studies in primate behaviour, cognition and evolution and is the longest running field site in the world.
However at the end of September, Hurricane Maria struck the island, sending the startled monkeys running for cover, ripping apart the mainland research station and cutting off fresh water supplies and electricity.
Although most of the 1,000-strong colony is thought to have survived, scientists now have the painstaking task of scouring the island to track down each individual, a process expected to take weeks.
The extreme winds also ripped up acres of natural vegetation which the monkeys eat, leaving them completely reliant on being fed by research staff, many of whom have now been evacuated because their homes were destroyed.
“Cayo Santiago was one of the first places the storm and its 150mph winds made landfall,” said Dr Lauren Brent, lecturer at the University of Exeter’s Centre for Research in Animal Behaviour which has been working with seven other institutions to help restore the facility.
“Since the island is only 38 hectares, there wouldn’t have been many places for the animals to take refuge.”
“We need to act quickly to save these monkeys for future generations of scientists to study,” added Dr Alexandra Rosati, of the University of Michigan.