Public petition launched to stop monkey cull in St. Maarten


Born Free USA suggests humane sterilization rather than instilling this cruel initiative for population control

Born Free USA is leading a global group of primate protection and animal welfare to provide support to the government of St. Maarten in a bid to stop reported plans to kill members of a troop of free-living green monkeys on the island for population control.

On February 2, 2023, a letter1 was sent to the Minister for the Environment, and made public today, in which the groups describe their concerns surrounding the plans. They also offer a partnership with the Caribbean Dutch territory and neighboring French Saint Martin to incorporate a humane sterilization program in substitute of the announced lethal cull.

Photo courtesy of Born Free USA.

Photo courtesy of Born Free USA.

"Our coalition is standing ready to offer expertise, including voluntary veterinary services, to the Government of St. Maarten to save the innocent lives of the 450 monkeys who currently make their home there,” expressed Angela Grimes, CEO of Born Free USA, in an organizational release.2

“A sterilization program will effectively and humanely reduce the non-native monkey population over time, and we have offered to work with St. Maarten authorities to help mitigate short-term issues caused by the monkeys, such as crop damage and encroachment into homes and schools. We are awaiting a response from the government to our letter, signed by 75 signatories, including world-renowned experts and organizations."

Additionally, to display support for non-lethal control, Born Free USA has also released a petition to the St. Maarten Government to call for the cull to be discarded.3

In the letter to the St Maarten government,1 the concerns were regarding the research behind the proposed cull, citing various flaws in the work, including estimations about population growth of these monkeys. The report that cited this research was authored by the St. Maarten non-profit, The Nature Foundation, making the erroneous claim that the monkey population can double in the space of one year, using this to justify their swift and drastic killing. If the population cited by the report is correct, the troop grows at around 10% per year, which indicates that the level of population expansion feared by residents will take almost 10 years. The collective of primate experts argues that this enables the government ample time to explore non-lethal control as a humane, effective response.

Additionally, the letter1 questions methodology and information offered as part of the public survey in which the researchers asked for the public’s views on the monkey's presence. The data provided in the survey was skewed towards elimination as a preferred option, and the respondents to the survey were also primarily self-identified as involved in agriculture (72%), a group that would be arguably biased toward eradication of the monkeys as they serve as a nuisance to them. Data demonstrates that more than 85% of residents on St. Maarten are employed in tourism, and that agriculture consists of just 1% of St. Maarten's gross domestic product. This displays that little effort was made to ensure that the survey results were representative of the island's larger population. Though biases existed in the survey, still only 55% of respondents were proponents of eradication with the other 45% in favor of sterilization or leaving the monkeys alone.

According to claims made in the report and on the social media page of the non-profit, sterilization of the monkeys would cost 5 times that of killing and that there is insufficient funding to incorporate sterilization. The organization doesn’t say how the financial costs of sterilization have been calculated. The groups behind the letter have asked for clarification on this aspect and for the chance to cost the initiative themselves, factoring in the offers of voluntary veterinary and project staff services.

"We believe that a humane sterilization program is the compassionate choice for the St. Maarten government, will be the most cost-effective solution, and will position St. Maarten as a leader in humane wildlife management,” Grimes added.

Born Free USA runs one of the largest primate sanctuaries in the US, caring for monkeys once exploited in the pet trade, in laboratories, and in zoos.

Sign the petition to save the St. Maarten Monkeys here.


  1. Sint Maarten monkeys letter redacted. February 2, 2023. Accessed March 1, 2023.
  2. Primate experts call for halt to St. Maarten monkey cull, public petition launched. News release. Born Free USA. March 1, 2023. Accessed March 1, 2023.
  3. Save the St. Maarten monkeys. Born Free USA. Accessed March 1, 2023.
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