Monkey Island in Cayo Santiago, Puerto Rico, boasted of a unique primate research center but is now in ruins after being devastated by Hurricane Maria. The monkeys that inhabit the island used to live sheltered lives, and they are now out in the open in unfamiliar surroundings. Scientists who are associated with the setup are trying to save the animals that have been specially bred. Their brains are treated as assets because they have been bred in special environments in order to study links to the human mind.

The hurricane has displaced thousands of people from Puerto Rico, and the administration rescued them.

Many of them have sought refuge in the mainland but the monkeys have nowhere to go. They have to survive among the ruins, and those who look after them have to innovate.

The research center in Cayo Santiago

New York Post reports that Cayo Santiago, known as Monkey Island, is located off the east coast of Puerto Rico. It is one of the world’s most important primate research center and is engaged in conducting research to find out how these animals think, socialize and evolve.

The setup was established in 1938 by an American. He had brought some rhesus macaques and selected Cayo Santiago to house them. He wanted to study their behavior pattern, and they have multiplied over the years. The island is, now, home to the world’s most studied free-ranging primate population.

There is a dedicated team of scientists who are associated with the center. They keep track of every birth and death, and the facility has suffered irreparable loss because of Hurricane Maria.

Magnitude of the problem

The hurricane has stripped the island of trees and wrecked the basic infrastructure. The animals feed on specially processed food that is brought by the staff of the University of Puerto Rico.

However, Maria has damaged the piers which, in turn, has affected the supply of food.

Monkey Island attracts researchers from different universities who arrive to study various aspects of these animals. In view of the present crisis, everyone from university staff to local employees is trying to maintain the food supply chain.

Work is also on to restore the essential infrastructures that are important for their survival.

Those who are trying to restore the research center are faced with occupational hazards. It seems these primates carry a particular type of virus that is harmless to them but, can be fatal in humans. Hence, humans who associate with them have to exercise necessary precautions.

Another major problem is a risk to the monkeys from humans. Hurricane Maria has destroyed the island’s chemical toilet. Humans cannot, therefore, remain on the island for a long time because human waste could lead to an epidemic, and wipe out the monkeys.