How Kids and Blue Ropes Saved Monkeys

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Manuel Antonio National Park, Costa Rica

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Janine Licare and Aislin Livingstone were only 9 years old when they started Kids Saving the Rainforest (KSTR), in Manuel Antonio, Costa Rica, back in 1999. They saw the rainforest disappearing, and the negative impact on animals, particularly Titi monkeys, or squirrel monkeys.

What did they do? They created monkey bridges. We were inspired by how such a simple idea could contribute to helping increase the Titi monkey population here.

What’s a Titi Monkey?

There is a sub-species (one very specific type) of Titi monkey that only lives in and around the Manuel Antonio National Park: the grey-crowned Central American squirrel monkey. They are grey with orange backs – it looks like they’re wearing tiny orange jackets. They’re the smallest monkey species in Costa Rica (and very cute).

The squirrel monkey is the most endangered monkey species in Central America. In 2001, there were only about 1200 of them left in the Manuel Antonio area.

In 1999, when KSTR was founded, many Titi monkeys were being hit by cars, or electrocuted as they traversed power lines, rather than trees, to travel from place to place.

What’s a Monkey Bridge?

monkey_bridge_kraftTo help solve this problem, KSTR installed 130 monkey bridges over the roads in the Manuel Antonio area. A monkey bridge is basically a thick blue rope that crosses overhead – like a power line. But these ropes don’t conduct power, and so they’re safer for the monkeys. The bridges have been installed with the help of the hydroelectric power company (ICE) and local experts, and maintained over the years.

We were amazed at how such a simple idea could help save monkeys.

kstr_work_kraftKSTR has other programs as well, including reforestation programs, a rescue center and a wildlife sanctuary. And they’re not alone — other organizations are also working to help save Titi monkeys and their habitat. Now, thanks to the efforts of KSTR and other organizations, the Titi monkey population has more than tripled, to an estimated 3700 monkeys.

We saw a troop of about 50 or 60 monkeys cross from one side of the road to the other, using a monkey bridge just in front of our hotel (called the Mono Azul, or Blue Monkey).

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Click here to see a Youtube video we took of Titis crossing a monkey bridge

You can see why someone might want to keep one as a pet. In fact, in the 1960s and 70s, many Titi monkeys were exported to the United States as pets, and for biomedical research. Now, this is illegal.

The biggest problem facing Titi monkeys in Costa Rica today is habitat loss. Much of their former rainforest habitat has been turned to banana and palm oil plantations and cattle farms. And, development — new construction, and increases in tourism — has also threatened their habitat.

However, we were encouraged to know that at least one threat to the Titi monkey has been decreased — thanks to two girls and some blue rope.

Some links for more information:

Titi Conservation Alliance

Info from Wilderness Classroom Rainforest Library

Kids Saving The Rainforest

Study Guide:

  1. What’s a monkey bridge?
  2. What are some problems that have caused the Titi monkey population to decrease?

3. How did the girls try and help?

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