Understanding Macaque Synanthropy
Long-tailed macaques face numerous threats, some of which are common to non-synanthropic species, but many of which emergy directly from their unique presence in human-influenced areas.
These threats include:
– Habitat loss and degradation due to logging, mining, aquaculture and agriculture, large-scale plantations and hydropower development,
– Illegal and legal domestic and international trade,
– Human expansion and urbanization, including dependence on human foods
– Conflicts with humans
– Hunting and poaching,
– Genetic pollution and diseases from introduced macaques,
– Use in traditional medicine,
– Persecution as pests,
– Exploration as Tourism Entertainment.
Long-tailed macaques are particularly apt to exploit anthropogenic areas across much of their range. They are able to adapt to cities, villages, and roads, as well as tourist, agricultural, and religious sites. In these areas, the macaques are often provisioned, which increases population sizes locally. This contributes to human-macaque interactions and risks a bi-directional transfer of pathogens, creating a platform for a range of conflicts. Particularly in urban and recreational areas, long-tailed macaques are found near roads and become victims of vehicle collisions.
Governments in many countries seek to mitigate human-macaque conflicts, often at the expense of macaque welfare. While population sizes remain unknown, culling is a known reoccurring practice in the regions they inhabit.
The long-term implications of removing individual macaques from their groups through culling and other forms of population control (such as harmful activities like trapping) have not been studied at length. Similarly, the human-macaque interactions remain to be investigated and understood.
Culling individuals is expected to change group dynamics, affect individual health, change selection pressures and survival rates, and reduce cultural variability.
The constant interaction with humans led long-tailed macaques to be classified as pests, derogatorily named a ‘‘weed species’’. This sort of terminology used by researchers is bound to have practical influence in the field, discouraging students and citizens from attending to this species. This, in turn, restricts access to funding their study in behavioral, ecological and conservation contexts.
This negative terminology also appears to affect local communities and tourists, suggesting to them that the species is not in need of conservation or attention.
Primate conservation revolves primarily around primates threatened with extinction, and the long-tail macaque’s classification as ‘Least Concern’ until 2020 undoubtedly hindered funding for research on the species.
The LTM Project contributes to primate research and conservation by allocating resources towards research on the human-macaque interface.
We pilot projects that help mitigate human-macaque conflict and investigate the cultural and behavioral diversity of the long-tailed macaque.
Adapted from Hansen, M. F., Gill, M., Nawangsari, V. A., Sanchez, K. L., Cheyne, S. M., Nijman, V., & Fuentes, A. (2021). Conservation of Long-tailed Macaques: Implications of the Updated IUCN Status and the CoVID-19 Pandemic. Primate Conservation, 35, 1-11.