Barbary macaque navigate their environment to cope with the presence of humans

Our study (Waterman et al 2019) shows that macaques make many behavioural adjustments in response to varying levels of human activity. Macaques balance food acquisition and risk avoidance – for example they minimise risk by avoiding areas used by local shepherds and their dogs (which are now among the monkeys’ most dangerous predators), and exploit opportunities to receive high-calorie human food by spending time close to roads. Although being fed by humans may appear to be beneficial for the monkeys, food provisioning in fact has negative impacts on the macaques – increasing their stress levels, heightening the probability of road injury and death, and having a detrimental impact on their health – and should therefore be avoided. The monkeys’ behaviour also shows seasonal trends in correlation with human activities. The macaques avoid herding routes during summer months, when herding activity by the local shepherds is at its peak, and they are more likely to use areas close to roads in the autumn and winter months, when natural food sources are low and the benefits of receiving high calorie human food may exceed the risk of being injured or even killed by road traffic.

 

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