Making a Difference, One Monkey at a Time
By Lucas Iturriza
When Patricia Sterman witnessed the electrocution of two monkeys on the wires in front of her home, something inside her changed forever. The sight was so horrific that she promised herself she simply must do something.
An unyielding dedication toward this end eventually led her to another passionate activist named Simona Daniele, six years ago. The two immediately realized that they complement each other to perfection, and sealed their first meeting with the prophetic phrase, “We are going to save the monkeys!”
The NGO SalveMonos (SaveMonkeys) was born with a clear-cut action plan: to build bridges for monkeys to use as an alternative to electrical wiring, and to construct cones that would prevent them from climbing up posts to power transformers. To date, SalveMonos has built more than 200 bridges and placed around 3,000 cones. Since the beginning, a basic tenet of the NGO’s vision was not to turn into a zoo; although they aid wounded animals, the idea is to return them to the wild as quickly as possible.
Today, SalveMonos’ work, inspired by Brenda Bombard’s Nosara Animal Refuge, extends from Ostional to the Papagayo Peninsula. And perhaps one of its most significant achievements is that other communities have copied this model: first Hermosa Beach, followed by Playa Grande and Playas del Coco.
After setting the first part of the project in motion – bridges and cones – SalveMonos invited biologist Juan Carlos Ordoñez to bring his equipment and perform a field study where he tracked troops, followed individual monkeys, and studied hazardous areas and the quality of nourishment found around Tamarindo. He found that 9 troops – approximately 123 individuals – inhabit this food-depleted region, which is in desperate need of reforestation.
After submitting an action plan designed by University of Costa Rica biologist Elena Echandi, the Santa Cruz Municipality granted SalveMonos a permit to revive the biological corridors in Langosta and Tamarindo’s green public areas. In addition, Coopeguanacaste’s environmental department will be in charge of producing, setting up and repairing structures.
SalveMonos’ altruistic goal to save monkeys generates a deep-seeded compassion among Guanacaste’s coastal communities. In fact, it has even attracted high profile guests such as the near-mythical Jane Goodall, a British naturalist, activist and primatologist that has dedicated over 45 years to studying chimpanzees at Gombe National Park in Tanzania.
What can you do to help? In Tamarindo, stop by the Azul Profundo Boutique or the Luna Llena hotel – where the project’s information center is located. Mugs, stickers, watches and t-shirts contributing to the fundraising drive can also be purchased at Hotel Capitán Suizo. Or visit www.salvemonos.org for more information.