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Macaque-related resources and how they can help

Contributed by Sarah Bonser-Blake, Animal Welfare Field Manager, Wild Welfare How do you meet the welfare needs of a macaque? Macaques often come into captive settings such as zoos, rescue centres or animal sanctuaries for a variety of reasons, and meeting their welfare needs can be very challenging. So how can we ensure that every macaque is able to enjoy a healthy and happy life?

As with many aspects of the macaque world, a lot of it boils down to humans. One of the reasons macaques might come into captivity in the first place is due to human/macaque conflict. In captivity, it’s up to humans to provide them with a good standard of care, but that is often easier said than done. 

Macaques are exceedingly intelligent, highly social and have a variety of different requirements of care which may change depending on the species. There are 23 species of macaque in total and each one has unique adaptations to slightly different environments and ways of living. Making sure a captive environment is a good home for a macaque by providing them with plenty of opportunities to play, rest, socialise and forage for food is essential to ensure a good standard of macaque care. As an example, macaques love to sleep as much as they love to explore, so providing them with opportunities for this highly motivated behaviour through giving them multiple platforms and soft substrates can lead to better resting behaviours.

It’s also important to remember that macaques are individuals with their own personalities and experiences. These mould their behaviours and reactions to captivity and their caregivers.

With all these challenges in mind, Wild Welfare wanted to make things a bit easier for macaque caregivers, and particularly those we work with across parts of southeast Asia. The idea was to highlight how to meet some of the welfare needs of macaques through encouraging positive behaviours within a captive setting. Our Care For Us guides provide basic species-specific information to help animal care staff to work towards optimum welfare conditions. In the macaque guide, we explore the importance of sociality, sleep, a varied diet, and complex environments.

Within our work to drive forward animal welfare improvements around the world, we often encounter a knowledge and skills gap which we want to fill with accessible and engaging information. Animal welfare information is often only available in English so once we published our macaque Care For Us guide in English, we set about translating it into other languages. The guide is also available in Japanese and Bahasa Indonesia currently, and we are working on more translations all the time. 

We have seen evidence of positive changes for macaques as a result of many of the educational resources which we have (many of which have their own translations). For example, when an animal care team in Laos interacted with our Wild About Welfare Digital Education Programme, they used the learning experience to plan refurbishment activities for an enclosure housing rescued macaques. The programme aims to get animal caregivers thinking through scenarios and case studies, some of which involve macaques. For example, exploring the topics of abnormal behaviours or managing aggression in a group of macaques. 

The true impact that educational resources can have (on both animals and the people who care for them) is significant, and this is why we are so passionate about ensuring accessible information reaches as many people as possible. We look forward to developing more resources in the future which will help animal care staff ensure that all macaques under their care are able to thrive.

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