Macaques are always on the lookout for a good meal, gobbling up succulent fruits, jaw-breaking seeds, and the occasional meaty treat. In Thailand and Myanmar, they’ve even been known to use crude wood and stone tools to break open nuts, clams, and all sorts of shellfish. Typically residing in mountains and lowland forests near water, the sneaky simians have encroached into cities, having become more and more accustomed to humans.
Due to generations of public feeding, many have learned to snatch food, cameras, bags, and anything else they can grab. Some macaque family groups, called troops, have even learned to raid houses – even opening refrigerators to get snacks! In Hongkong, feeding plus a lack of natural predators have caused populations of rhesus and long-tailed macaques to become bold and aggressive. In India, where devout Hindus worship the Monkey God Hanuman, rambunctious macaques are known to charge and bite people – especially if there’s a chance to get food. The Times of India reported that in Delhi alone, 1,825 monkey bites were reported over the first 11 months of 2015! As urban monkey and human populations grow, monkey encounters will become more and more common. Solutions range from minimizing public feeding to neutering wild macaques.
Despite their resemblance to humans, always treat macaques as wild animals. If you want to see them, travel to Subic Bay in Zambales where large troops still abound. Just remember not to feed them and to watch your gear – those nifty little hands are fast!
Lastly, if you see monkeys of any kind being sold, please report it to Animal Scene and your local wildlife protection agency. Monkeys are legally protected and make poor pets because of their extreme unpredictability. Remember that at least 70 percent of all primate species in Asia are threatened with extinction. We need to keep ‘em in the wild where they can live, breathe, and gleefully engage in monkey business.
Pig-tailed macaque (Macaca nemestrina), classified by the IUCN as vulnerable. Found across Borneo, Sumatra, the Malay Peninsula and Thailand. Grows to 20 inches and averages 20 pounds. Known for their short, upright tails, resembling pig’s tails. In Malaysia, they are trained to climb and harvest coconuts! (Gregg Yan)
Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis), the most common of the 22 macaque species. It is known for being unusually bold and aggressive when searching for food – even sneaking inside homes and opening refrigerators to get snacks. The Philippine macaque is a subspecies of this widespread animal. (Gregg Yan)
Monkey looks at the canopy of Mount Bongao in Tawi-tawi, the Philippines. (Gregg Yan)
Staying with a troop of macaques reveals humanlike habits. The author spent a few hours with a troop of wild macaques in Tawi-tawi. The monkeys spent a lot of time playing, fighting – and just thinking about life. (Gregg Yan)
Mother and child do some grooming, 30 feet above the forest floor. Females can give birth at five years of age, raising a single baby every two years. Babies stay with their mothers for about 10 months. (Gregg Yan)