Cheeky Macaques Adapt to Modern Life
SINGAPORE -- Dubbed the world's second most successful primate, the world's twenty species of macaque monkeys are more widespread than any primates except humans, having migrated to Europe and Asia from Africa millions of years ago.
Here are some facts on some of Asia's macaque hotspots.
- Japan's "Snow Monkey" macaques live the farthrest north of any monkeys. Often pictured sitting in hot springs, they were the world's first to wash their food, and to learn to roll snowballs.
- Population: Between 35,000 to 50,000, though numbers are in decline because of habitat loss and shootings by farmers.
- Hotspot: Hell's Valley, or Jigokudani, in northern Nagano Prefecture, where humans and monkeys bathe in volcanic hot springs. Watch them live at: www.jigokudani-yaenkoen.co.jp.
- The territory's battle with its wild, mostly rhesus, macaques led to a public feeding ban in 1999; but over 1,400 complaints were made about monkey nuisance in residential areas in 2006. Monkey-feeders now need a permit to give them snacks in Kam Shan Country Park's "Monkey Hill" area.
- Population: Around 1,500
- Hotspot: Shing Mun Country Park. Despite the controls renowned primatologist Jane Goodall was ambushed by Hong Kong's monkeys while picnicking in the park last year.
- Scattered across several islands, some of Indonesia's macaques were introduced deliberately for use for biomedical research.
- Population: Unknown. But Sulawesi's crested black macaques have halved in numbers to 4,000-6,000 over the last decade due to forest clearances for crops and hunting.
- Hotpot: The Monkey Forests on Bali island, where tourists feed them peanuts, have turned the "normally gentle and friendly animals into beggars and thieves," U.S. primatologist Meredith Small says. YouTube videos of "monkey muggings" show the macaques, seen as sacred by the Hindu community, at their worst.
Sources: Primate Info Net, The Jane Goodall Institute Hong Kong, Agriculture Fisheries and Conservation Department of Hong Kong.