Happy Lunar New Year to all! According to the Chinese zodiac, this is the Year of the Monkey, and perhaps a good time for us to all play a part in helping our fellow primates.

In Singapore, many Long-tailed Macaque (Macaca fascicularis) troops live in areas that overlap with human use – whether it’s residential neighbourhoods along the forest edge, or public parks and nature trails within our forests. Conflict arises usually as a result of feeding of monkeys. Having become habituated, these monkeys often resort to raiding nearby homes and rubbish bins, and harassing people and snatching food from passers-by. In some cases, people get scratched or bitten. Many people also don’t know how to behave around monkeys, especially towards juveniles, and end up provoking the adults, resulting in people getting charged at and chased. Feeding of monkeys close to roads also leads to many instances of roadkills.

Complaints from the public lead to monkeys being trapped, removed, and euthanised, although culling is not an effective management strategy, since it doesn’t target specific “problem” individuals, but instead simply reduces the population, removing monkeys that likely weren’t causing much trouble in the first place.

It doesn’t have to be this way.

You can help monkeys by not feeding them, and stopping others from feeding. Avoid attracting their attention while hiking by not eating and drinking in their presence. Many monkeys have learnt that plastic bags often contain food, so conceal them. If your home is close to the forest and monkeys visit your neighbourhood, you can reduce raiding by installing window grilles and securing your bins. Don’t be that asshole who teases and harasses monkeys. If you’re walking your dog in the forest, keep it leashed and don’t let it chase monkeys. Slow down and look out for wildlife when you’re driving, especially if you’re on roads close to the forests.

Reducing human-wildlife conflict is as much about changing human behaviour and attitudes as it is about managing wildlife. Let’s make this a good year for our monkeys.

(Photo by Sabrina Jabbar)

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