Monkey See, Monkey Do

May 7, 2009 at 12:10 am | Posted in itchy mouth | 3 Comments
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Some times ago, Itchyfingers attended a talk by a National Park Board (NPark) Outreach Officer about conservation. The talk started with a Q&A session on the nature reserves of Singapore. For those who do not know, they are the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, Central Catchment Nature Reserve, Labrador Nature Reserve and Sungei Buloh Wetland Reserve.

She shared with us tips on how to better preserve and protect our nature reserves by
– following the designated trails and boardwalks and not trying to venture into protected areas so as to reduce our impact on the soil and plants;
– not taking anything home from the reserves as even dead matters like leaves and insects would eventually be recycled back by nature
– not bringing dogs into the reserves as they may threaten the small animals and birds living there;

No doggies allowed in the nature reserves…

She mentioned about her much heated debate with a member of the public during one of her outreach programmes. He insisted that dogs and cats belong to the forests and should be released to where they ‘belong’. Well, what he forgotten was that these dogs and cats had long been domesticated and might not survive well in the wild. If they do, it means that they are a threat to the native wild species. Wow…that reminded me of the doggy in the Malaysian forest…wonder who put her there?

and of course…

No feeding of monkeys…with bananas or any other human food…

Another problem NParks officers face are complaints from the public residing near nature reserves about monkeys raiding their houses or snatching food from park visitors. Many times, people thought these monkeys are so cute and are such poor things as there seems to be nothing for them to eat in the wild, unless people feed them. But what people didn’t realise is that, these monkeys would eventually be so used to be fed that they might not be able to forage their own food. What’s worse is that they might become so bold and aggressive that they would snatch food from people. Itchyfingers had the experience of nearly being chased by these monkeys when I took out the insect repellent wrapped in plastic bag to spray at the car park of Bukit Timah Nature Reserves. The macaques had learnt to associate plastic bags with food. Luckily I kept it before they dashed forward.

I do not understand why people think that there is nothing to eat in our reserves. Itchyfingers had withnessed not once, but twice, groups of these Long-tailed Macaques feasting on jackfruits at two nature reserves, oblivious of our presence. We were thus able to observe them at a decent distance.

Sinking his teeth into this huge jackfruit almost the same size as him…

See those teeth?

It was fun looking at the macaque balancing themselves while eating…
so agile!

There was this clear hierarchy within the group – when what seemed to be
the Alpha Male of the group was eating, no other macaques dared to go near
the fruit…this one was waiting for his turn…

Others, like this baby, would be foraging on the ground for scraps…

Many other visitors also stopped to look and take pictures when they saw Itchyfingers photographing the monkeys. Monkey see, monkey do…hahah…We were surprised that some didn’t even notice their presence….While most visitors were discreet enough to just look and take pictures, there were some, especially those with children, were rather rowdy. 😦

Itchyfingers left the group for our morning walk in the forest and saw more macaques. It was only now that I noticed for the first time Long-tailed Macaques also store food in their cheek pouches.

See how many seeds this guy was keeping? It is a practical way of storing
food as they can be transported away from the foraging site to eat…we
called it ‘ta bao’ lor…hahahah….

According to this site, “The seeds in fruits consumed by primates may be chewed and digested, swallowed and defecated intact, or separated from the flesh and spat out…Long-tailed Macaques (Macaca fascicularis) have a remarkably low threshold of 3–4 mm for swallowing seeds and also that wild macaques rarely break them. The seeds of 69% of the ripe fruit species eaten are spat out intact or cleaned outside the mouth and dropped. Seed-spitting significantly reduces the swallowed food bulk and may lessen the risk of releasing seed toxins during mastication. However, it requires that even small fruits are processed in the mouth one or a few at a time….fruit storage in the cheek pouches allows them to spit seeds individually without excessively slowing fruit intake while feeding on patchily distributed fruit.”

When we finished our walk, we past by the same tree and saw no more sight of monkeys. The jackfruit, however, was wiped clean…

The leftover…

It was fun to observe the monkeys in their natural habitat foraging for food. Imagine if we were to feed them…this is what you will get to see according to the Wild Singapore site…:(

Human food (especially junk food!) is bad for monkeys. By eating food in
their natural habitat, they play the natural role of seed dispersal, which helps
in the regeneration of the forests

There are people who feed monkeys from their cars. Hence these macaques
learn to associate cars with food and will rush out towards cars, just like
they associate plastic bags with food. Many are accidently knocked down
by passing cars 😦

Itchyfingers had seen macaques looking into rubbish bins for food – these smart primates have seen how their human cousins open the bins. It certainly wasn’t a good experience seeing such unnatural behaviours, so we wish to make this plea to everyone: Please do not feed the monkeys. You will do them more harm than good.

Well, if you still cannot control the urge to feed these monkeys…be prepared to pay for it…:p

Think the sign was put up just for fun? Well, a guy was recently fined S$4,000
for feeding the monkeys…

A sign at the zoo…no feeding is encouraged too!

The monkey can’t read the sign, but people should!

For more consequences of feeding monkeys, please refer to this site.

Also see related post:
> The Raffles Museum of Biodiversity Research



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  1. What a great post about how feeding monkeys hurt the monkeys and the forest! Thanks for sharing!

  2. people feed the monkeys in a good intention..but end up we are disturbing the

  3. I think they are right about not feeding monkeys human food… This website is really great!! by the way thanks for sharing the info!

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