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Author/Editor:
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Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research, Department of Biological Sciences, National University of Singapore. Since 1998 with origins from OneList.


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Tue 07 Jun 2005

"Stop Feeding the Monkeys"

Category : nature

I encoutered these signs during Sunday's briskwalks on display at strategic points in Rifle Range Road and at Bukit Timah Nature Reserve's Visitor Centre. The message says, in no uncertain terms, "Stop feeding the mokeys." Clear and unambiguous, it's a welcome addition.

Some emails from Genevie Chua and Benjamin Lee of National Parks Board (NParks) added:

'...seven such 'in your face' banners have been placed [strategically for drivers] at all popular monkey feeding sites, including Old Upper Thomson Road and the access road to Upper Peirce Reservoir.

The banners was put up in early May and would not have been possible without the contribution of Volunteer Ria Tan (at risk of being hatam [=hit] by the driver), who took this photo along the access road to Upper Peirce Reservoir Park.

Now, offenders will have to think of a better excuse than "I don't see any signs leh" when caught. This despite the metal prohibition signs that were placed at regular intervals along certain monkey feeding hotspots.'

So, the languid responses of 'near-sighted' drivers have finally prompted a relatively drastic measure - drastic because most forest reserves attempt to keep artificial signs to a minimum so as not to mar the ambience of the forest.

And these banners are huge! Well, they certainly caught my attention easily. Yet somehow, from the positioning or the colours of the main photo perhaps, the signs have managed to avoid becoming a blight on the landscape.

The clear message ("STOP") points out the deterrent ("offenders will be fined") yet explains ("help them [monkeys] return to the forest"). You have to appreciate the thought that went into their design.

It's fun to feed monkeys, and you might be wondering what the fuss is all about, right? Well, naturalists in NGOs, government departments and universities have been patiently explaining this to visitors for decades:

"Less feeding, less begging, less aggressive behaviour." And less neccessity for the monkey's destruction!

In fact, after a little seach, I was surprised by something I wrote 14 years ago (Monkey business. By N. Sivasothi, 1991. The Mudskipper. Biological Sciences Society, National University of Singapore):

So, resist the temptation of feeding them so that they don't start associating people with a food supply - this becomes a responsibility: refraining.

You may enjoy yourself momentarily (they look oh! so cute!), but you leave behind a growing problem. When things get really bad, the animals would usually have to be destroyed. No use whining about it then.

Left to fend for themselves, these monkeys, the Long-tailed macaque (Macaca fascicularis) will find a balance in the forest, which is their natural setting. Feeding, however, can lead to the expectation of food from humans, and in its absence, result in aggressive displays and even attacks. After repeated flee-reinforced encounters, the macaques usually learn that women and children are relatively easy prey and target these individuals even more aggressively for food.

Physical injury or significant scares has led to demands for their destruction in the past. Especially when a child or tourist has been scratched. Populations of long-tailed macaques have been destroyed in various parks and reserves over the past few decades in Southeast Asia. It is an eventual management practice.

Feeding our wild monkeys can contribute to someone else's injury
and the monkey's likely destruction.

One good strategy is thus to pre-empt feeding with a firm and clear signal at the feeding sites. Since these signboards were put up at the popular feeding spots, Sunia Teo of NParks reports that has been 'a significant drop in the number of people feeding monkeys reported by rangers.'

You can contribute to the the long-term welfare of these animals by providing NParks with additional vigilance. If you encounter a feeding, you can advise the culprits who may simply be unaware of these issues. If they persist, record this information for submission NParks at . With sufficient information, they can issue a summons.

  1. Time.
  2. Date.
  3. Location, e. g. road name and lampost number.
  4. Vehicle license plate number.
  5. A discreetly taken digital photo of the act if possible.
  6. Your particulars.

And if I may quote the 1991 article again:
"Best thing to do is to watch them without interference, from a distance,
as they go about their monkey business..."

Some light-reading about man - macaque interactions: Chasing monkeys in the rain. By Sivasothi, N., 1995. The Mudskipper. Biological Sciences Society, National University of Singapore. Macaque Attack (about macaques in Bako National Park, Sarawak). By Wayne Tarman, ?2000. Borneo-Travel.com.

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Posted at 1:36AM UTC by N. Sivasothi | permalink | email | Raffles Museum news