By Colleen Smith
You see them every day parading across monkey bridges and electrical lines, but the recent electrocution of six titi monkeys in Pocares reminds us that there is still a need for a better balance between our modern world and the surrounding eco-community. While we need electrical lines to power our needs, the trouble for wildlife starts when the wires—either two primary or a primary and secondary—make contact with a grounded object, such as a tree or land, or with each other. When this occurs, the wires become electrified, creating a dangerous situation for monkeys accustomed to using them as a means of passage.
This is exactly what happened on October 16 when the monkeys in Pocares—all members of the same troop—were electrocuted and then rushed to KSTR’s Wildlife Rescue Center by a concerned passerby. Sadly, such events are not isolated occurrences in Costa Rica; in fact, dozens of monkeys are injured or even killed trying to cross the roads that wind through their natural habitat. And with more and more electrical wires being strung along the corridors that link one section of rainforest with another, greater numbers of monkeys and other animals are using wires for transportation.
This year alone KSTR has treated 30 electrocuted animals, suffering from shock, internal burns, heart arrhythmias, respiratory distress, and pulmonary edema. Injuries to three of the tiki monkeys from last month’s incident were so severe that they had to be euthanized following days of treatment in intensive care. The others are still recuperating at the Wildlife Rescue Center.
In an effort to save more animals, KSTR has partnered with ICE to develop innovative solutions. In 2012, ICE will restring insulated wires from Quepos to Hotel Mono Azul and from Hotel Costa Verde down to the beach—two areas that KSTR identified as being highly trafficked by the animals. The current electrical poles are not able to support the weight of the insulated wires, so a portion of the money will also be used to replace poles. ICE will continue installing preventative devices. In the past year, ICE has put approximately 40 cover-ups over exposed wires on top of transformers where KSTR has noted that the majority of monkey and sloth electrocutions occur. ICE is also now placing cones on wires that lead from the ground up to the transformers. These cones act as physical barriers for smaller species that cannot climb past the cone. In addition, ICE is utilizing “’little spiders,” which transmit a small electrical current to warn animals of danger on the wires.
Both KSTR and ICE agree, however, that simply trimming down trees is one of the most important ways to prevent animal electrocution. If there is no visible way for the animals to pass from one side of the street to another, they will jump and grab onto a tree branch. But if that branch happens to touch a primary or secondary wire then they receive a shock. At KSTR’s last meeting with ICE, locations in Quepos and Manuel Antonio where trees needed to be cut back were identified.
Members of ICE’s new Natural Resources Department were shocked by KSTR’s reports and photos of burned and amputated animals, and have asked KSTR to begin sending immediate reports of electrocutions so that the location and cause can be rapidly investigated. This will not only help prevent injury along the same wires in the future, but it will also enable ICE to deliver better service to its customers since each time an animal is electrocuted, power is lost, requiring ICE to track down the exact location of the outage and restore the electricity.