Food provided by humans
In one way or another, food is the root of most conflict between humans and macaques.
In many cases, macaques are fed intentionally by humans, whether for religious purposes, for entertainment, as part of a tourist experience, in search of a closer connection with nature, or simply because people believe that the monkeys are hungry. As is the case with most wildlife, such feeding can result in the macaques becoming too comfortable around humans. This heightens the risk of disease transmission, property damage, attack and injury. In some cases, macaque populations are likely to have grown artificially large - far larger than the natural resources in the area would permit. When monkeys rely on human handouts and such handouts cease, serious social disruption can occur within or between troops. The widely reported fighting amongst the macaques of Lopburi, Thailand, during the Covid-19 pandemic in March 2020 perfectly illustrate this.
Mitigating conflict caused by feeding
It has been illegal since 1999 for unauthorised people to feed the macaques in Hong Kong. The government has created a series of videos and other materials aimed at helping the public understand why such a ban is required. This work is supported by Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong, which gives talks and tours and engages with visitors at hotspots for illegal feeding. Their “Don’t Feed Wild Animals” Programme aims to foster respect for wildlife, raise awareness and deter feeding. OPCF has also created and implemented a macaque management plan, which encompasses their work on the feeding ban, in addition to population control through contraception, complaint handling, and planting food trees to encourage natural foraging. This work has resulted in a tremendous drop in “nuisance calls”.
Animal advocates in Kathmandu recognised that hand-feeding the rhesus macaques who abound in the city's temples is a root cause of monkey welfare issues and aggression. They devised a feeder that can be operated by the monkeys themselves, allowing them to access healthy food. If such feeders were to be rolled out widely across the city, this could help to break the monkeys' association of humans with food, and therefore aggression. It would also reduce welfare problems caused by poor nutrition and disease transfer.