Primatologists describe the various ways and places where human and non-human primates interact as the human-primate interface. Conflict is not an inevitable part of this interface, but it can be an issue with certain species who have adapted particularly well to human-centred environments. These include the vervet monkeys in parts of Africa, capuchin monkeys in parts of South and Central America, and a variety of macaque species, which are almost exclusive to Asian countries. Such species were once referred to as weed species but other, less loaded terms, such as synanthropic species, are preferred.
Conflict between macaques and humans is usually rooted in food. From a monkey’s perspective, humans can be a great source of relatively easy-to-access food, whether it’s provided directly and intentionally (e.g. tourist sites, parks, temples) or indirectly (crop-raiding, bin-raiding, break-ins). While living in close proximity to humans can be very risky for monkeys, access to food sometimes makes it worthwhile.
Both humans and macaques can suffer as a result of human-macaque conflict. There is a two-way risk of disease transmission and injury. Provisioned monkeys can become malnourished or obese, and overdependent on human handouts, their populations increasing beyond sustainability. Human property can be damaged and crops compromised; monkeys are often injured intentionally, captured, or killed.
In places, humans and macaques have been coexisting successfully for many years. In other areas, human-macaque interactions have increased more recently. Causes of this can include the human encroachment on monkey habitat and the inappropriate release of confiscated animals who had previously been kept by humans.
Human-macaque conflict mitigation methods should not be considered in isolation. Multiple factors such as habitat quality and availability and regional societal perceptions and customs must shape any strategy to address conflict.
Causes of human-macaque conflict
Human-macaque conflict is interconnected with many other issues . For example, the perception of a species as overabundant may mean that they are captured more often as pets. Such individuals may later be released by their owners or confiscated by the authorities and released. Having become habituated to humans means that these monkeys might be bolder, more aggressive or otherwise more visible to the people in the area, thus perpetuating the idea that there are too many macaques.