Image by Dennis Rochel

Macaque Coalition

Crop foraging

Crop foraging (crop raiding)

As human development and agriculture continue to expand, and their own habitats continue to shrink, macaques and other wildlife are increasingly hard pressed to avoid people and their crops. In fact, some of the more commonly seen macaques (the “synanthropes” - see Glossary) are particularly adept at exploiting human habits and activities for their own benefit! 

 

A field full of crops is, to a long-tailed macaque, a wonderful opportunity to obtain plentiful food without much risk or effort. Humans, who depend on these crops, can see the macaques as pests or thieves. Indeed, crop-raiding can threaten human livelihoods. This sort of conflict is widespread and ancient, and can be seen as an arms race of sorts; as humans come up with ever more clever ways to deter monkeys, clever monkeys continually find ways to bypass these deterrents! 

Cultures vary in their tolerance towards crop raiding macaques. For example, this study examined the attitudes of farmers from two different regions of India towards crop raiding macaques. People from Kerala were less tolerant of and more likely to kill macaques, and though, because of losses sustained as a result of crop raiding, the people from Himachal Pradesh had become “disenchanted” with macaques, they were less likely to kill.  The authors point out that culturally, Kerala’s attitude towards nature is that of dominion, whereas Himachal Pradesh’s history is rich with local forest protection and community forestry initiatives - and macaques are religiously significant.

Primatologist Catherine Hill made a strong case for abandoning terms like  crop-raiding, because they “obscure the nature of, and appropriate responses to, such ‘conflicts’”.  The authors of a 2016 research paper suggested the term “crop-foraging,” which we adopt here. 

 

Block, push or pull?

John Knight categorised the mitigation options available to farmers in Japan whose crops were being harvested by macaques as block, push, or pull.  Blocking methods included hard-mesh, roofed fences which effectively encaged the crops; flexible fencing which is challenging for monkeys to climb; overnight guarding of fields; and anti-monkey dogs.  Pushing methods involved creating a frightening environment for the monkeys so that they would leave the area, such as chasing with noisemakers or firecrackers. Pulling, or diverting, included the creation of a monkey-feeding park nearby. Each of these methods has its advantages and drawbacks, Note, for example, that the creation of a monkey-feeding park is likely to further habituate monkeys to human presence, which could make problems worse in the long run.   

Mitigating crop raiding

A great variety of measures that have been employed to stop macaques from helping themselves to the abundance of farmers’ fields. These measures range from complex (electric fencing systems, motion sensor-triggered water sprays) to the very simple (aluminium sheeting around the base of crop tree). Please also explore our Macaque Projects & Mitigation page, which is updated regularly.  

 

Note that we do not recommend or endorse lethal methods, or those that seriously compromise macaque welfare.