A little over a year ago several residents of Playa del Coco got together with the purpose of preserving our community’s howler monkey population. Through casual observation we had concluded that the biggest threats to local howlers were 1) decreasing amount and continuity of tree cover within their territories and 2) deaths by electrocution when individual monkeys traversed power poles and lines. We also had seen the bridges hung in neighboring Playa Hermosa and further south around Tamarindo. Consequently we focused our efforts on getting aerial bridges installed around town to increase effective habitat area and provide safer crossings for them. Our first activity was a fund raiser last September which brought in almost $1000.
Networking with the groups in other towns that have bridges provided invaluable advice and led us to enlist the help of Coopeguanacaste, the local utility company. They provide and install bridges anywhere that monkey fatalities or accidents have occurred on power lines, at their expense. Reports of such incidents from local people have resulted in the installation of eleven bridges around town so far.
We also contacted the volunteer program at the University of Costa Rica and requested a study of our monkey population with the objective of finding out more about the troops of monkeys and their movements in order to put bridges where they most need them and are likely to use them. In exchange for meals and lodging a few biology students make periodic visits to Coco, follow the monkeys throughout the day and report their observations. Thus far they have extensively studied one of the down town troops comprised of 16 individuals. The troop moves from the trees above Coconutz, where they sometimes sleep overnight, all the way to the office of Arroyo Adventures on La Chorrera road. The volunteers identified 6 potential danger spots where the monkeys need to cross over roads or come down to the ground in lots or yards in order to continue along their route. We have purchased two bridges so far to put over the roads at these points.
Slightly more than half of the money from the fund raiser is still unspent, but much work remains. We know there is another monkey troop living in the area of Hotel Savannah to at least the vicinity of the CCSS clinic, as well as troops in Barrio Los Canales, Barrio San Martin, the road to Ocotal and up around the anchor coming into town. These troops need to be studied and their bridge requirements met as well. A plan for transporting any injured monkeys to the rescue center near Nosara and designating funds for that has yet to be addressed. In the future we would also like to plan a tree planting activity in strategic areas with species preferred by the howlers.
Anyone who wants to get involved is welcome. Activities and news are posted on Facebook at the group “Save Coco’s Monos” or you can contact Lisa Bradshaw at 2670-1859 or firstname.lastname@example.org. You can help by reporting any accidents or electrocutions of monkeys with detailed location and post number information. We also need help hanging the bridges from strong, sure-footed individuals who aren’t afraid of heights. Donations of meals and/or lodging for the university volunteers (2-3 at a time), rope and materials for building bridges, or money toward such purchases would be greatly appreciated. If you have more ideas for saving Coco’s howlers and can coordinate their implementation, a donation of your time could be most invaluable.