One of the many attractions to Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica is the abundant wildlife particularly its primates – capuchin, howler and the endangered Red-backed squirrel monkey. Having Manuel Antonio National Park in such close proximity to many vacation rental homes gives vacationers the added thrill of seeing wildlife in their own backyard.
Unfortunately out of ignorance, indifference or for a photo opportunity many tourists feed the monkeys. However, they’re not fully to blame. Although local hotels are completely aware of the dangers, a few still encourage feeding monkeys to attract more clients. When tourists see others doing it they assume it’s acceptable. But feeding the monkeys is so detrimental to their health and survival it can have catastrophic consequences.
Catastrophic Consequence #1
As monkeys are attracted to more populated areas to be fed by humans they face new kinds of predators. Although monkeys spend the majority of their time in the trees, they’ll run along the ground briefly to get to desired food source if there’s no overhead passage through the rain forest canopy. This proximity to the ground increases their risk of dog attacks. Dogs are popular pets in Manuel Antonio and most homeowners have one or more. Running across a road to get to tourists tempting them with bananas also makes monkeys vulnerable to being hit by cars.
Catastrophic Consequence #2
In order to maintain good physical condition, the monkeys of Manuel Antonio need to travel an average of 17 kilometers per day. When they become accustomed to being fed by humans they tend to stay within an area where there’s “fast food,” upsetting their normal foraging routes and physical routines.
Catastrophic Consequence #3
When monkeys have repeated contact them they lose their fear of humans. This facilitates the illegal trade in wildlife by making it easier for poachers to catch them.
When you’re in Manuel Antonio resist the temptation to feed the monkeys. That cute endangered Red-backed squirrel monkey who you feed a banana to today could be attacked by a dog, be hit by a car, sold to the pet trade or die from the bacteria on your hands tomorrow. Treat nature’s creatures responsibly, so they’ll still be there when you return.