While conflict can be very real, coexistence can appear to be conflict when one or more groups of human stakeholders misunderstands or misrepresents a situation. Small but highly visible populations can be assumed to be overabundant; “conflict” itself can be poorly defined.
Long-tailed macaques have been described as “widespread and rapidly declining”. They are one of the most visible monkey species in the world and are often considered to be pests, and overabundant. Yet, their tremendous success at surviving in human-dominated may mean that assumptions about their abundance are mistaken. Indeed, they have very recently been reclassified by the IUCN from “Least Concern” to “Vulnerable.”
Similarly, in Vietnam, where there are five native species of macaque, no detailed information about the abundance of any of these species in the country is available. Yet in places where they are in conflict with humans, they are regularly persecuted as pests, shot at, and even rounded up and relocated to areas that may or may not be suitable.
In Hong Kong, the authorities believed that rates of conflict were high. Rates were measured by the number of complaint phone calls received, but when Ocean Park Conservation Foundation Hong Kong were called in, they asked the authorities to collect further information. Soon it became apparent that a large proportion of calls were based solely upon monkey sightings - no actual conflict had occurred.
Similarly, research conducted by International Animal Rescue and the Nature Conservancy at Angke Forest, Jakarta, found that over 50% of “complaints” about macaques were simply reports of their presence in the area.
This does not mean that conflict is imaginary. Macaques do raid crops, sometimes endangering human livelihoods. Urban macaques can be dangerously aggressive, and can sometimes injure people. Local attitudes towards macaques can impact the degree of perceived conflict, and should also inform strategies for conflict mitigation.
Researchers in Indonesia were called in by the authorities to solve what they perceived as a macaque conflict problem resulting from macaque overpopulation. Preliminary investigations showed that local stakeholders did not feel there was a problem - and that rather than being overabundant in the area, the macaque population was actually in decline. The study found that while long-tailed macaque populations were artificially inflated in areas frequented by tourists, their numbers in more remote areas of the park were lower than had been assumed.
Public awareness and education:
The Animals Asia Foundation
The Animals Asia Foundation produces and distributes educational posters and information about macaques and the macaque pet trade. Please find downloadable copies of some of these materials on our Bibliography & Resources and Projects & Mitigation pages.
Changing harmful misperceptions:
The Animal Neighbours Project
The Animal Neighbours project works on human-macaque conflict issues in Malaysia. It is a community-based project that uses research and education to mitigate human wildlife conflict in urban areas. Alongside designing and implementing practical solutions, such as monkey-proof bin locks, the project has created Local Action Groups and conducted presentations and workshops designed to improve local perceptions of macaques.