My Morning Cup of Coffee Kills Monkeys
My coffee habit is killing the black-handed spider monkey, a cute New World simian (my favorite kind) that thrives in the canopy of Central American forests with tall trees. That’s pretty much the opposite of the kinds of forests that still exist where the spider monkey lives, because for decades we’ve been cutting down those tall trees to make room for farms. Worse, the monkey requires a large amount of such forest as a home range to find enough fruits to eat.
What do those farms grow, you ask? Well, more often than not, it’s coffee beans. The international trade in Central American coffee has spurred forest clearing that eradicates habitat for the endangered monkey and, ultimately, the monkey itself.
The monkey’s woes come despite its protected status. This spider monkey (Ateles geoffroyi) shelters behind the legal shield of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species, meaning it cannot be openly sold, which is meant to keep it from becoming a pet (yes, it’s that cute). But no such protection exists for its habitat, which may ultimately make any other protections moot. Not even the monkey’s amazing gripping tail can help it hang on in the face of forest clearing.
And that’s why this spider monkey is just one of at least 25,000 animals currently threatened around the globe. The primary culprit in at least 30 percent of such looming extinctions, according to a new analysis published in Nature on June 7? Global trade.