The macaques are probably the most familiar non-human primates you see in Singapore. With human development encroaching further and further into their habitat, we have become close neighbours - but not necessarily always welcome.
Sadly, a lack of education on appropriate human behaviours around wildlife has led to a rise in human-macaque interaction and conflict. The easiest example of this is food - the more people feed the macaques, the more they unintentionally change the macaques’ feeding behaviour. Macaques have come to learn that humans provide easy access to food and continue to rely on them.
In partnership with NParks, JGIS offers free guided walks on every second, third and fourth Saturday evening of the month, covering MacRitchie Reservoir Park, Lower Peirce Reservoir Park, and Bukit Timah Nature Reserve. The goal is to share our knowledge about the macaques, inform citizens on how to support a healthy relationship with them, and give all members of the public an opportunity to observe these fascinating monkeys’ day-to-day lives up close in their natural habitat.
Click here to sign up for the next available walk. Places are filled really quickly, so reserve your spot now!
The Monkey Guards programme aims to reduce human-macaque conflict without culling. Monkey Guards are a team of trained personnel tasked to identify groups of macaques that frequent or enter urban places, such as residential areas.
Once identified, 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 alpha males are denied entry, the rest of the troop will be naturally deterred from trying. The aim isn’t to eliminate the sightings of macaques, but to create a safe and respectful barrier between people and macaques.
Macaques which were 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 does not address the root of the problem.
The Monkey Guards is also a sustainable project. Part of the Guards’ role is to educate residents and security guards about how to behave in and react to the presence of macaques, and to set up systems that bring immediate assistance and assurance to those who encounter macaques.
In 2015, a pilot project was conducted among six residential houses that border the Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, providing promising results with less frequency of macaque visits. Since 2017, the roles of Monkey Guards have been handed over to each residence’s security guards, to support the sustainability of the project.
Resolving potential issues with macaques and other urban wildlife requires an integrated management approach, determined by each macaque troop and a residential area’s specific context. There is no single management strategy that will suit all sites of human-macaque interaction. JGIS believes that positive management strategies should focus on promoting proper behavioural etiquette when facing macaques in order to ensure long-term human-macaque co-existence. It is our hope that people will see that the macaques are not a pest, but rather a part of Singapore’s wildlife.
If you’d like to get Monkey Guards involved in your residential management or if your area is facing issues with monkeys, get in touch with us.
Macaque Working Group
The Macaque Working Group was formed in September 2017, and the initial meeting with all partners was graced by Dr Jane during her visit to Singapore. The Working Group is comprised of JGIS, NParks, WRS, ACRES, NTU, NUS and AVA, 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. To find out about the Working Group’s upcoming events and to reserve your attendance, visit our Events page.
Raffles Banded Langur
These are the largest of Singapore’s non-human primates. Including their tails, they can be up to 140 centimetres long and weigh over 6 kilograms. While their distinctive black and white markings certainly help them stand out against the green foliage, the langurs are shy, elusive and rarely descend from the trees, making them extremely difficult to find.
The Raffles’ banded langur is listed as critically endangered in Singapore because of a small population size and a restricted distribution. In order to take effective action for conservation, information on population size and distribution needs to be collected and updated through field surveys.
Citizen Science Population Surveys
As part of our efforts to conserve the Raffles’ Banded Langur, JGIS has been organising population surveys to help us learn more about the langurs. We recruit volunteers to help us with these surveys and there are two shifts (morning and afternoon) every weekend (Saturday and Sunday). Each batch of volunteers sign up for a six-month duration during which they commit to volunteer at least once. If you want to contribute to our efforts, sign up for the next briefing session.
Raffles' Banded Langur Working Group (RBLWG)
The RBLWG was formed in August 2016 with representatives from JGIS, WRS, NUS, NParks, NSS, and also universities and agencies from Malaysia. Our main goals are to:
- Ensure the langurs’ habitats are protected and restored
- Gather data through long-term research
- Secure resources and commitment for their conservation in Singapore and Malaysia
JGIS is currently helping to coordinate and manage the citizen science surveys for the Raffles' banded langurs. For opportunities to get involved with this work, keep an eye on our Volunteer page and stay tuned to our Events listings for upcoming briefings.
For more information about this work, visit the Raffles' Banded Langur Working Group Facebook page.
Greater Slow Loris
Famous for their enormous eyes and small stature, lorises are actually one of the few mammals and the only primate with a venomous bite. Despite this natural defence, their sweet appearance has made them a prime target in illegal pet trade.
Much like the Raffles’ Banded Langur, the slow loris is incredibly shy and elusive. They are also primarily nocturnal, which makes them the least studied primate in Singapore. While we know their numbers are in decline due to the illegal pet trade, we unfortunately don’t know how many are left in the wild, making efforts to support their protection all the more urgent.
It is JGIS’s mission to actively work to support the conservation of all primates in Singapore but, for now, our limited contact with the slow loris may actually be its best defence. In the past few decades, there have been confiscations of slow lorises in Singapore, clearly suggesting that it is involved in their illegal trade. If you spot any slow lorises being kept in people’s homes or being sold, please notify the authorities, including AVA, ACRES and NParks.