The 84th Annual Meeting of the American Association of Physical Anthropologists (2015)

Preliminary report on the use of GPS/GSM tracking devices to estimate the vervet monkey (Chlorocebus aethiops sabaeus) population on the island of St. Kitts


School of Science, Marist College, Center for Conservation Medicine and Ecosystem Health, Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine

March 28, 2015 , Gateway Ballroom 2/3/4/5 Add to calendar

Ethnographic data collected since 2010 show that Kittitian people believe the vervet monkey population outnumbers the human population (of ~50,000 individuals on 68mi2). Scientific estimates of the St. Kitts vervet monkey population have gradually increased, from 1,500 in 1965 to 5,700 in 1972 to 7,000 in 1974 to 30,000 in 1980, with the exception of the most recent (2010) estimate of 15,000, which sparked local outrage. Since there are no habituated free-ranging St. Kitts vervet monkeys, this study utilizes newly available GPS/GSM technology to conduct the most systematic estimate of the St. Kitts vervet monkey population to date. In July 2014, ultra-light (220g) Tellus brand GPS/GSM tracking devices were placed on adult males from two distinct groups on the southeast peninsula. The goal of this work is to establish the size and geographic range of troops in four distinct habitats in St. Kitts (southeast peninsula, village, farm, and forest). The assumptions of this estimate are that the monkeys live everywhere on the island, troop sizes and ranges are consistent within habitats, and, due to the territorial nature of vervets, a smaller range will indicate more troops in the habitat and vice versa. Habitat-specific troop sizes will be documented visually with hides placed at traps. This technology is especially useful, as GPS coordinates are sent in real-time via the GSM network and can be viewed immediately online. Thus far, 63 days of data have been collected. The battery life of these devices is nine months (when collecting 32 waypoints per day).

Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine, St. Kitts IACUC #14-6-032. This project was generously funded by the Christophe Harbour Foundation.