Does Puerto Rico have monkeys?

Answered by Willie Powers

Puerto Rico does have monkeys. Specifically, there is a small island off the eastern coast called Cayo Santiago that is home to a troop of around 1,000 rhesus macaque monkeys. This island, measuring about 38 acres and shaped like a lowercase “r,” is also known as Monkey Island.

Cayo Santiago and its monkey population have a unique and fascinating history. The monkeys were originally brought to the island in the late 1930s by a group of researchers led by Clarence Ray Carpenter. The intention was to establish a research station for studying primate behavior and biology in a controlled environment.

Since then, the monkeys have thrived on Cayo Santiago, and the island has become a renowned field site for primate research. Scientists from around the world visit Monkey Island to study various aspects of primate behavior, cognition, genetics, and social dynamics. The long-term data collected from this population has contributed significantly to our understanding of primate evolution and behavior.

What makes Cayo Santiago particularly interesting is that the monkeys are free-ranging, meaning they are not confined to cages or enclosures. They have the freedom to move around the island, forage for food, and interact with other members of their troop. This naturalistic setting allows researchers to observe and study the monkeys’ behavior in a more ecologically valid context.

The monkeys on Cayo Santiago are not native to Puerto Rico. They are descendants of the original monkeys brought to the island decades ago. Over the years, the population has grown and developed its own unique social structure. The monkeys live in complex social groups, with dominant individuals, hierarchies, and various forms of social bonding.

While the monkeys of Cayo Santiago are an important research population, they also face various challenges and threats. Hurricanes, such as the devastating Hurricane Maria in 2017, can have a significant impact on their habitat and well-being. In the aftermath of the hurricane, efforts were made to provide support and aid to the monkeys, including food and medical care.

Additionally, the proximity of Cayo Santiago to the mainland poses potential risks to both the monkeys and the local human population. The monkeys could potentially transmit diseases to humans, and there have been instances of conflicts between the monkeys and local residents. Balancing the needs and conservation of the monkey population with the concerns of the surrounding communities is an ongoing challenge.

Puerto Rico does have monkeys on Cayo Santiago, a small island off its eastern coast. The rhesus macaque monkeys that inhabit the island have become the subject of extensive research and have contributed significantly to our understanding of primate behavior. While they face challenges and potential conflicts, efforts are being made to ensure their well-being and conservation.