NEPA captures white-faced Capuchin in St. Andrew

A Panamanian white-faced Capuchin, Cebus imitator, in its natural jungle habitat (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

A white-faced Capuchin monkey sighted in Jacks Hill, St. Andrew was successfully captured by members of the National Environment and Planning Agency (NEPA) on Wednesday, August 28.

Responding to reports of the monkey by residents, a two-day operation among members of NEPA, Veterinary Services Division (VSD), Jamaica Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (JSCPA) and Jamaica Constabulary Force (JCF) led to the mammal’s capture.

In a statement, NEPA indicated that the monkey has been placed in quarantine by the VSD to determine if it’s the host of diseases following the results of a sleuth of tests.

Photo: Wikimedia Commons

‘Monkey sightings on the rise’ – NEPA

“In recent months, the agency has been concerned and been tracking the increasing number of reports of monkey sightings across the island. Reports were received from St. Ann, St. Elizabeth and St Andrew. All are being investigated,” NEPA further indicated.

A joint decision will be taken by NEPA and the VSD on the fate of the monkey once test returns are received.

The white-faced Capuchin monkey, Cebus imitator is non-native (exotic) to Jamaica, NEPA warned.

Physical map of Jamaica (Photo: Wikimedia Commons)

“The occurrence of this non-native, potentially invasive species poses significant risk to Jamaica’s terrestrial ecosystem and agricultural sector,” NEPA’s statement continued.

Harbingers of death

The Cebus imitator is also a carrier of the Hepatitis virus, Ebola, rabies and other dangerous diseases, which can be transmitted to human beings.

The Ebola virus, magnified, multiplying in an infected monkey (Photo: MedicalXpress.com)

According to NEPA, the importation and/or trade of these non-native species without requisite permits are illegal according to the Endangered Species (Protection, Conservation and Regulation of Trade) Act.

Any Jamaican or non-resident found to be in breach of the law will attract a fine of not more than $2 million and/or up to two years’ imprisonment.

The start of a much bigger problem for Jamaica?

Chief Veterinary Officer (CVO) at the VSD Dr Osbil Watson, expressed his concern over the possible implications for Jamaica’s already overburdened health sector, should the Capuchins begin to breed and spread to other areas.

“The [VSD] has always been concerned about the frequency of report of sightings of exotic animal species,” Dr. Watson declared.

Dr. Osbil Watson (Photo contributed)

“This situation is no doubt of a direct threat to public health and safety as it relates to non-human primates, which have the potential to transmit pathogens, such as viruses, bacteria, fungi and parasites to humans,” he added.

Read NEPA’s joint statement in full here.