Long-tailed Macaque

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Feb 2020, Windsor Nature Park Office. Photo credit: N Sivasothi
Representatives from the Long-tailed Macaque Working Group at the Festival of Biodiversity 2018 posing with guest of honour Minister Desmond Lee (5th from left) and MP Desmond Choo (3rd from left). Photo credit: Gloria Ong (Mothership.sg)

The Long-tailed Macaque Working Group was formed in September 2017, with Dr Jane gracing its first meeting. The Working Group comprises members from the Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore), National Parks Board, Wildlife Reserves Singapore, Animal Concerns Research and Education Society, National University of Singapore, Land Transport Authority, Housing and Development Board, Singapore Land Authority and Public Utilities Board, with the hope that more relevant agencies will come on board.

The Working Group aims to provide effective solutions to address the human-macaque tension in Singapore and to raise appreciation of our native monkeys.

Renowned primatologist Jane Goodall speaking at the Human-Wildlife Co-Existence in Asia: Conflicts and Mitigation Conference 2019 at Marina Bay Sands Expo and Convention Centre on Nov 26, 2019. Photo credit: Chong Jun Liang (The Straits Times)
Second Minister for National Development Desmond Lee speaking at the Human-Wildlife Co-Existence in Asia: Conflicts and Mitigation Conference 2019. Photo credit: Chong Jun Liang (The Straits Times)

During the first Long-tailed Macaque Working Group meeting in 2017, Dr Jane Goodall, who was visiting at the time, stated that macaques were intelligent and social animals and that, “If every single person in Singapore did not feed macaques for three years, the human-macaque issue would be resolved. Juvenile macaques will learn only to feed from the forest”.

With this in mind, JGIS, in partnership with the LTMWG, launched a “No Feeding Campaign” targeted at long-tailed macaques. It is hoped that the campaign will also help resolve wider human-wildlife conflict with other urban wildlife, like wild pigs. On 26 November 2019, Mr. Desmond Lee, Minister for Social and Family Development and Second Minister for National Development, announced the launch of the “No Feeding Campaign” during the JGIS ConservAction Week when Dr. Jane Goodall was again in Singapore.

The “No Feeding Campaign” aims at stopping the provision of food to macaques across Singapore within three years, through education and outreach activities like talks by our Wildlife Ambassadors and Monkey Walks, targeted research through a long-tailed macaque citizen science programme called the Monkey Scouts, and a Monkey Guards programme.

Education and outreach
Through our Monkey Walk programme where we bring members of the public to observe long-tailed macaques in the wild, we will educate members of the public about their ecology and how best to live harmoniously alongside them. Talks will be held at schools, community centres and at condominiums that have monkeys sharing their space, with the aim of educating the public about monkeys and inspiring them to make a positive difference so as to live in harmony with monkeys in their neighbourhood.

Research and action
A map of human-macaque conflict hotspots will be generated through the collective efforts within the LTMWG, using data generated by university research as well as calls received by ACRES and NParks relating to macaque-related incidents. A new JGIS-led citizen science programme called Monkey Scouts will supplement these efforts to make sense of where human-macaque interactions occur, and possibly why. 

Teams of trained JGIS Monkey Guards will be dispatched regularly to areas identified in the map to carry out education and monkey guarding activities. Infographics and advice on appropriate human behaviours when encountering macaques (such as no feeding, keeping plastic bags away, and maintaining a safe distance) will be provided to the public. 

In residential areas or eateries near forests where macaques congregate, simple methods to secure outdoor waste bins (such as using bungee cords) will be shared with owners. Monkey Guards will also monitor the conflict situation on the ground and, where needed, will prevent macaques from entering houses or restaurants and safely guide the macaques back into the forests. In order to track the success of the campaign, JGIS will conduct surveys on public perception of macaques. 

Assessment of existing situations of human-macaque conflicts will be carried out at the beginning, middle and end of the campaign. JGIS expects that the “No Feeding Campaign” will significantly reduce or even fully resolve conflicts between humans and macaques, leading to a greater appreciation of our native urban wildlife so that we can all coexist in harmony in Singapore.

Inquisitive juvenile macaques at Lower Peirce Reservoir Park. Photo credit: Amos Chua

Our Long-tailed Macaque Citizen Science Programme aims to empower people from all backgrounds and academic qualifications to contribute to scientific research.

As a citizen scientist, or Monkey Scout, you will be working with other passionate and like-minded volunteers to collect location-based data on human-macaque interactions at various macaque ‘hotspots’ in Singapore.

Your contribution would help JGIS in research we are conducting as an integral part of our three-year ‘No Feeding Campaign’, as well as go a long way in informing how we allocate resources for Monkey Guarding to hotspots where human-macaque conflict is the most serious.

We recruit volunteers to help us conduct these surveys in two shifts (morning and afternoon) on various weekdays and weekends. Each batch of Monkey Scouts volunteer for a six-month duration, during which they are required to conduct at least two surveys.

For opportunities to get involved, please register here.

Monkey Guards Benjamin (left) and April (right) talk to students at Hwa Chong Green Camp 2019 about their experience volunteering with JGIS. Photo credit: Lim Yi Zhen

JGIS intends to hold educational talks at schools, community centres, and condominiums where macaques are also frequently sighted. The aim of this programme is to educate the public about monkeys and inspire them to make a positive difference so as to live in harmony with monkeys in their neighbourhood. Also, this programme serves as a platform to raise awareness of our ‘No Feeding Campaign’, which aims to stop monkey feeding.

If you are able to commit long term (5 months and more) and have a passion for giving engaging educational talks in English, we would love to have you on our team! Kindly send your resume and available start date to Tanya for consideration.

If you would like us to provide a talk on primates by our Wildlife Ambassadors, please contact us here.

A young human looks at two young macaques. They are very close, too close in fact. Photo credit: Sabrina Jabbar
Young macaques watch a human walk her dogs in a park. Photo credit: Sabrina Jabbar
Monkey Guard April carefully observes the macaque Pippin at a residential estate near the Green Corridor, where Pippin’s macaque troop can frequently be sighted foraging at the forests’ edge. Photo credit: Heng Su Ping
Monkey Guards Sin Wei (foreground) and Su Ping (background) stand guard and observe two resting macaques, hence deterring them from entering a condominium’s substation to forage in the dumpster. Photo credit: Sabrina Jabbar
Monkey Guards (from left: April, Yi Zhen, Su Ping, Sabrina, Vignaraaj) representing JGIS at the Human-Wildlife Coexistence in Asia at Sands Expo Convention, Nov 2019. Photo credit: Sammy Shreedhar

Macaques found to be in conflict with humans used to be trapped and culled. But this practice has proven to be ineffective and cost-intensive, as removing the monkey each time an incident happens opens up an opportunity for another monkey, and does not address the root of the problem. 

The Jane Goodall Institute (Singapore) believes that our Monkey Guards Programme provides an alternative, effective, and humane solution to the problem.

We believe that human-wildlife conflict management strategies should focus on promoting positive human etiquette around macaques in order to ensure long-term human-macaque coexistence.

Monkey guarding is a wildlife management technique that aims to deter macaques from negative behaviors such as foraging for human food within residential areas.

Since 2018, our Monkey Guards have been striving to educate residents on how to behave appropriately in the presence of macaques, and have also assisted in guiding macaques safely away from residential areas and back to the forest edge.

Monkey Guards station themselves at the macaques’ usual point of entry and herd the macaques away by waving a stick, hitting it on the ground to create noise, or by raising their voices to deter macaques from approaching. Their constant presence and use of tools are a negative reinforcement, discouraging the macaques from entering the premises.

Over time, this negative reinforcement influences the bolder and dominant macaques, and when they are denied entry, the rest of the troop will be naturally deterred from trying. 

Because macaques are forest edge-dwellers and will inevitably cross paths with people in the ‘urban jungles’ of Singapore, the intention of monkey guarding is not to eliminate sightings of macaques, but to create a safe and respectful barrier between people and macaques, such that both species can go about their daily lives without bothering the other.

We are looking for confident, determined individuals who like working outdoors and are not afraid to interact with cheeky macaques. If you would like to join our close-knit team, please register here, where you will be informed via email of upcoming training sessions.

If you would like us to get JGIS Monkey Guards involved, please contact us here.

Monkey Walker Yuan Yi (first from right) and her tour group at Lower Pierce. Photo credit: JGIS
A tour group enjoys the view at Lower Pierce Reservoir. Photo credit: JGIS

You have probably seen a macaque in Singapore before—but have you been into the forest and observed them in their natural habitat? How much do you really know about them? There is so much to learn and understand about Singapore’s primates- the long-tailed macaque, the Sunda slow loris, and Raffles’ banded langur. There is no better way to explore than joining ‘A Walk With Our Neighbours’, otherwise affectionately known as a ‘Monkey Walk’.

Bukit Timah, MacRitchie, and Lower Peirce Reservoir are the locations for our Monkey Walks. Our dedicated Monkey Walkers have been expertly trained by primatologists, and will guide you through the forest and answer your questions about our resident primates! 

At JGIS, we have been tracking and observing macaque troops as part of our Monkey Guards programme since June 2018. We know the troops’ behaviour, when they are most active, and we know where we can usually find them. Come learn all there is to know about these highly sociable, active macaques.

If you need convincing, just listen to this feedback from Benjamin Chew, who has been leading Monkey Walks at Bukit Timah since 2018:

“I feel that leading the Monkey Walks is a great way of giving back to the community by communicating to the public about Long-tailed macaques to address concerns about them and educate the public in viewing them from a different light. I hope that through this initiative, members of the public can come to see macaques the same way I did after my first Monkey Walk.” – Benjamin Chew

This is an opportunity for anyone and everyone to come out and observe the macaques’ day-to-day lives in their natural environment at the Central Catchment. 

Click here to find out when our next free guided walks are taking place and reserve your place. For private groups or alternative dates, please contact us for more information.

If you are able to commit long term (8 months and more) and have a passion for giving guided nature walks in English, we would love to have you on our Monkey Walkers team! Kindly send your resume and available start date to Benjamin for consideration.