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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.
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.
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.
And if I may quote the 1991 article again:
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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