Interactions between visitors and Formosan macaques (Macaca cyclopis) at Shou-Shan Nature Park, Taiwan

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Abstract

Ecotourism involving feeding wildlife has raised public attention and is a controversial issue, especially concerning nonhuman primates. Between July 2002 and April 2005, the behavior of monkeys and tourists was collected through scan samplings, focal samplings and behavior samplings at the Shou-Shan Nature Park located in Taiwan's second largest city—Kaohsiung. In addition, the number of tourists and monkeys was counted in different hours and places within the park. Four hundred visitors were interviewed using a questionnaire to gather data on sex, age, purpose and frequency of visit to the park. The number of tourists was significantly higher during weekends than in weekdays in all locations. Humans dominated in the initiation of interspecies interactions—the overall ratio of human-initiated and monkey-initiated interactions was 2.44:1. Human–monkey conflicts accounted for only 16.4% of the total interactions (n=2,166), and adult human males and adult male macaques participated in higher rates than other age/sex groups in these conflicts. Visitors showed more affiliative behavior (15.9%) than agonistic behavior (8%) toward the macaques. In response to visitors' threat or attack, the Formosan macaques mostly showed submissive behavior with bared teeth, squealed or ran away to avoid confrontation (69.1%)—only few responded with counteraggression (18.7%). This study for the first time provided evidence that food provisioning increased both the frequency and duration of aggression among Formosan macaques (P<0.001). During food provisioning, the average frequency and the duration of agonistic events of macaques were more than 4 times higher compared with those without food provisioning. The average frequency of food provision by tourists was 0.73 times/hr—more than twice the incident that monkeys grabbed the food from tourists (0.34 times/hr). If people refrain from feeding monkeys and destroying the city park's natural vegetation, monkeys can be used to educate public about nature conservation in an urban setting. Am. J. Primatol. 71:214–222, 2009. © 2008 Wiley-Liss, Inc.

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