Characterizing human–macaque interactions in Singapore



Previous studies have noted substantial human–macaque interactions involving physical contact in Bali, Indonesia; Gibraltar; and Mt. Emei, China [Fuentes, American Journal of Primatology 68:880–896, 2006; Zhao, Tibetan macaques, visitors, and local people at Mt. Emei: problems and countermeasures. In: Paterson and Wallis, editor. Commensalism and conflict: the human–primate interface. Norman, OK: American Society of Primatologists. p 376–399, 2005]. The aim of this study was to conduct preliminary observations in order to begin to characterize interaction patterns between humans and long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) in Singapore. Unlike Bali, Gibraltar, and Mt. Emei, Singapore occasionally enforces fines and penalties and engages in an education campaign in an effort to minimize physical contact between humans and macaques. Observers stationed at two sites in Singapore conducted 92 5 hr of observation that included 730 human–macaque interactions over 16 days. Data recorded include interaction characteristics, demographic and behavioral variables, presence of feeding by humans, and presence of automobiles. Although feeding by humans was relatively infrequent overall, it generally occurred most often by individuals in cars and when human children were present. Data analysis suggests that interactions involving physical contact between macaques and humans are rare in Singapore, in contrast to the findings from Bali, Gibraltar, and Mt. Emei. This low level of physical contact suggests a low risk of macaque–human pathogen transmission in Singapore. Am. J. Primatol. 70:879–883, 2008. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.