Some macaque species have learned to live in the midst of crowded, highly developed human areas, and some have been doing so for centuries. Often fed directly and intentionally in parks and temples, they regularly raid accessible rubbish dumps and bins, scattering trash around the area, or enter people’s homes and take whatever they can. They can be assertive or aggressive and frighten or even injure local people or tourists visiting the area. Close contact between people and macaques heightens the risk of disease transmission between the two.
Conflict with macaques can be a serious problem for all involved. At times, the existence of conflict between macaques and humans has been mistakenly assumed (see public perception). Coexistence can be possible but measures may need to be taken to ensure that this is the case.
Mitigating urban macaque conflict
Some macaque species, like the long-tailed macaques that are present in so many urban areas across Southeast Asia, are known as “extractive foragers”, which means that they naturally know how to get food out of challenging “containers” - such as fruit or nuts contained in hard casings, or shelled invertebrates like crabs or oysters. They’re even known to use tools to do so! This means that it is easy for them to get into rubbish bins or dumpsters unless special precautions are taken. People and groups from around the world have come up with unique solutions to this problem. For example, the Animal Neighbours Project has distributed over 100 monkey-proof latches to homes in high-conflict areas in Malaysia. Hong Kong installed bins designed to keep out monkeys and wild boar in residential areas.
This video, produced in South Africa where baboons and vervet monkeys frequently come into conflict with humans, demonstrates a way to monkey-proof your own bin.
Feeding bans and enforcement measures
In Hong Kong, following a dramatic increase in the number of introduced rhesus and long-tailed macaques, and a corresponding increase in complaints about conflict, a ban on feeding was introduced in 1999. Simultaneously, hundreds of thousands of fruit trees were planted in the area’s country parks, to ensure that the monkeys would have sufficient, and healthier, food available to them. Other measures were introduced simultaneously or soon afterwards (see Population Size and Public Perception).
Click here to read a thoughtful and detailed overview of the urban macaques of Singapore.
In some situations, feeding bans are not feasible for cultural reasons. In temple settings, for example, feeding monkeys may have deep religious significance. Under such circumstances, strict controls or supervision may be appropriate. See Tourist Sites & Temples to learn about a novel approach taken by animal advocates in Kathmandu.
Fortification of buildings and urban design
As with rubbish bins, if a macaque can access your kitchen to find a tasty snack, he most likely will - and often, once he’s learned he can do so! Some households may struggle to fortify their homes to prevent macaque access. In such cases, governments, NGOs or local community groups could consider implementing a fortification programme.
Apart from individual households, other physical neighborhood attributes can potentially help mitigate conflict between people and macaques. For example:
Fruit trees can be planted in the more remote areas of public parks,to lure the monkeys away from residential areas
Walls can be constructed of sheer materials, difficult for monkeys to climb.
Electric fencing or motion-sensored spray mechanisms can installed
None of these solutions are universal. Baseline research is important to establish the extent and nature of the problem, so that appropriate solutions can be identified.
Population control is sometimes an appropriate measure to mitigate conflict between humans and macaques. Please visit our Population Control page for further information.
Education and awareness
Awareness and education are incredibly important wherever macaques share space with humans. Please visit our Public Perception and Macaques are Great pages for more information.