Monkeys threaten San Juan
Residents are worried because the primates, once used in research, carry diseases.
By Ray Quintanilla | Sentinel Staff Writer
Posted July 30, 2005
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TOA BAJA, Puerto Rico — When hordes of monkeys began invading Puerto Rico’s agricultural fields, devastating crops and eluding capture, the major concern was trapping them before they reached urban areas, where they would pose a public-health hazard and be nearly impossible to round up.
Fear is turning to outrage. Authorities recently acknowledged a clan of these pesky monkeys, escapees from defunct medical-research laboratories along Puerto Rico’s southern coast, has turned up just 20 minutes outside metropolitan San Juan — home to 1.5 million residents and a virtually unlimited number of hiding places.
“It would be very bad if these monkeys got to San Juan,” said Jose Chalbert, director of Puerto Rico’s Department of Natural Resources, an agency that recently proposed capturing the wild monkeys because they carry diseases.
“I don’t even want to think about having to trap monkeys there,” Chalbert said, adding that funding for his $3 million effort to trap the monkeys is being held up amid all the fighting in the Legislature.