Amigos de los Monos

The People

People of the Burica Peninsula / Katie Mann, MSc / Dr. Rob Horwich / William Patterson

People of the Burica Peninsula

The multicultural community of the Burica Peninsula comprises the local base of Amigos de los Monos. The majority of the Burica Peninsula is inhabited by the Amerindian Guaymí. In the northern region there are the Costa Rican settlements of Punta Banco and Pavones. Punta Banco is a small town thriving on exemplary eco-tourism. Pavones, home to a world-class surf wave, hosts a great variety of international homeowners.

First Meeting of Amigos de los Monos at La Laguna

Photo: Gabriel Schmerler, project sponsor; Katie Mann, project catalyst; Santos Watson, principal guide; and Santos Miranda, local COVIRENA coordinator. Credit: Dr. Robert Horwich.

Amigos de los Monos had their inaugural meeting on February 23, 2007, at the community school La Laguna. The meeting was attended by fifty Ngäbe adults in addition to Dr. Robert Horwich; Gabriel Schmerler; and Peter and Liz Beth Aspinall, founders of the Tiskita Foundation, a flagship conservation organization in the area. The community conservation strategy was shared with the group, stressing the imperative role that the community plays in designing and carrying out conservation efforts. It was explained that the role of project catalyst, Katie Mann, is that of a bridge connecting the community with external funding agencies and international collaborators to support community initiatives.

Right: Community member Gricelda Watson speaks on behalf of project catalyst, Katie Mann, at the inaugural meeting. Credit:  Katie Mann

The community expressed concern about investing effort and energy in outsiders, whose participation has, in the past, been short-lived, leaving people with false hopes. In response, a number of people spoke on behalf of the integrity and character of Mann, who has demonstrated the ability to follow through with commitments.



Katie Mann, MSc

MSc in Primate Conservation
Director: Amigos de los Monos
Associate: Community Conservation, Inc.


Amigos de los Monos Director and project catalyst Katie Mann studied for her master's degree in primate conservation at Oxford Brookes University in Oxford, England. She carried out a pilot study to assess the need for primate conservation efforts in northern Punta Burica, Costa Rica, in response to the outreach of Canadian Gabriel Schmerler, who was seeking to support conservation efforts in the region surrounding the village of Punta Banco. Mann's research found that, of the four primate species residing in that area of Costa Rica, the spider monkey was in clear danger of extirpation (local extinction).

Concerned individuals from the Ngäbe Conte Burica Indigenous Reserve approached Mann, eager to collaborate on a conservation program. While developing the project from the States, Mann had the privilege of presenting plans at the June 2006 Society of Conservation Biology Annual Conference. There she participated in a class taught by Dr. Robert Horwich and Scott Bernstein, MSc, called “Catalyzing Successful Community Conservation Projects.” This class marked the beginning of a working relationship with Dr. Horwich's nonprofit organization, Community Conservation.


Rob Horwich, PhD

Ph.D. in Zoology

Director: Community Conservation, Inc.

Photo: Training villagers in primate censusing in Assam, India

Dr. Rob Horwich has worked with community conservation projects since 1984 in nine countries and sixteen cultures. As Director of Community Conservation, his main goal is to catalyze community-based conservation projects, encouraging local rural people to become stewards and protectors of the lands and waters within or adjacent to where they live.  In Belize, Rob initiated the Community Baboon Sanctuary in 1985 to help save the endangered black howler monkey, and used it as a model to establish other community-based conservation projects throughout the country.  In Wisconsin he has helped create five community groups to protect areas in southern Wisconsin.  In Assam, India, his work with Community Conservation brought together a Forum of five nongovernmental organizations focused on the golden langur and the Manas Biosphere Reserve.  The Forum now works with over 130 villages to create empowered village groups that actively replant, patrol and protect government and community lands by repelling encroaching tree cutters.

Rob initiated a course in "how to catalyze community conservation projects" through which he met Katie Mann.  Their mutual interest in communities and primates led to their working together in Punta Burica where Rob will be an adviser to the project.  Rob's interest in furthering the community conservation process has led to additional current courses with a followup project to effect regional change in southwest Madagascar where there is a beginning program for community co-management of protected areas.


William Patterson

Web site:

William Patterson has worked since the age of seventeen to rescue primates. His latest project is the purchase of one hundred acres in the southwestern region of Costa Rica to protect habitat (from logging, burning for cattle, and desctructive development) for capuchin, howler, and titi monkeys, other animals including macaws, and of course,to save the primary forest that sustains them all. The land supports many troupes of monkeys due to the large number of guayaba trees that cover the entire property. Spider monkeys are no longer in this region due to fragmentation of the forest.

His long-term goals include the addition of more land to the reserve to serve as a corridor to the Punta Burica, and eventually the reintroduction of spider monkeys. He also is webmaster of this site.

Contact him via e-mail.





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