BQLive Volunteer Guide: Mischief Managed? – Minimising Human-Macaque Conflict

A Long-tailed Macaque at Sisters’ Islands

Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) are probably Singapore’s most well-known primate species. Also known as the Crab-eating Macaques, these intelligent animals are known to make tools to help them forage. Being opportunistic and resourceful, it is no wonder they have done well in navigating our urban landscape. Though primarily found in Nature Reserves and Nature Parks, there have been several incidents of macaques ‘trespassing’ into residential areas nearby. 

So what are some methods that have been employed to manage this? 

#1 Culling

Probably the most controversial tactic – aside from being a morally-charged issue, there is little scientific backing that it solves the key problems. The use of culling as a management strategy has come under scrutiny several times, particularly when it was found that almost 360 macaques (or about 1/5 of the population!) had been culled in early 2013, in response to a rise in complaints.

Culling may remove certain problem individuals or troops. But others in the vicinity could still move into the territory they once occupied. It is hardly a long-term solution, so what more could be done?

#2 Monkey Guarding

In 2015, ACRES launched a programme at six condominiums bordering Bukit Timah Nature Reserve to train security guards in Monkey Guarding techniques. These involved specially-trained guards being stationed at an area where macaques are known to enter, then approaching the alpha male, and blocking the troop’s route in an assertive but non-aggressive manner. This could be done by tapping the ground with a long stick, and telling the macaques to leave in a firm voice. Over time, this negative reinforcement causes the troop to modify their route, and they will be less likely to enter the residential area.

The Monkey Guarding programme was handed over to the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) in 2016, and also expanded to include the condominium residents and volunteers. Thus, more members of the community had a chance to play their part in encouraging a harmonious coexistence with their primate neighbours. 

#3 No Feeding Campaign

In 2019, a three-year ‘No Feeding’ campaign was launched by the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore). This campaign will encompass education initiative (such as guided walks and outreach talks) and training in Monkey Guiding techniques. In addition, a three-year long study by NParks and NUS was announced, which aims to gather data on the macaques’ behaviour, movement and diet. 

Hopefully, these initiatives can improve our collective understanding of this species, and promote responsible interactions between humans and wildlife as a whole.

Want to know more about Long-tailed Macaques, and how we can tackle the issue of human-macaque conflict? Join our next Burning Questions LIVE with a Volunteer Guide from the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore)RSVP by Wednesday 20 May 2020. 

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