A pig-tailed macaque in a village at the east coast of the Malayan peninsula. This one is trained to harvest coconuts from the surrounding trees in a plantation. Image: Asienreisender, 2005.

A macaque receiving food from a Javanese Tourist in the Natural Park of Pangandaran, Java. Image: Asienreisender, 1996

Another trained plantation macaque on Sumatra, Indonesia. His face expression is quite bad - Indonesians don't treat animals well. In his 'hands' he holds a banana flower. Image: Asienreisender, Bukit Lawang, 1996

A juvenile at the foot of Mount Merbabu, Java. Image: Asienreisender, 2012





Macaques appear in 22 subspecies from Morocco to Japan. Some of them are endangered species. There is also a population on Gibraltar in Spain. The crab-eating macaque (also: long-tailed macaque, latin name 'Macaca fascicularis', given by Thomas Stamford Raffles) are the most common kind of monkeys in Southeast Asia. Some of the other subspecies appear exclusevely on several Indonesian islands.

A long-tailed or crab-eating macaque on Pangkor Island, Malaysia. Image: Asienreisender, 2012

Macaques live in groups between 10 and 100 individuals. A group consists usually of 25% male and 75% female group members. There are hierarchies between the male as between the female monkeys. Young male have to leave the group when getting adolescent, females remain in the group. They don't stick very much to a certain territory. Though, sometimes it comes to conflicts between different groups for a certain territory as a feeding ground. A range of noises and mutual cleaning of their furs are part of their communication.
They can jump over distances of five meters.

Their natural habitats are forests of all kinds, rain forests, jungle, bamboo forests, wetlands, but also plantations. Though, they are very adaptable. In Hongkong for example they are counted as one of the worst invasive species.
Their diet consists of a great variety of plants and animals. Fruits and seeds, leaves, flowers, roots and bark they eat as well as bird chicks, nesting female birds, lizards, frogs and fish, invertebrates and bird eggs. Although they are ecologically well-adapted in their natural surroundings, in environments where they are not native they can cause a great danger for biodiversity.
Macaques are also feeding from cultivated fields and plantations, sometimes causing great damage for the farmers.

They reach an age of 15 to 20 years, in human captivity they can get up to 30 years old.


Macaques and Humans

Humans and macaques share partially the same environments and live side by side since a long, long time already. I suppose even Homo erectus lived already side by side with monkeys. But they weren't humans like we are and the monkeys weren't macaques - I don't think, macaques are that old.

Macaques are very adaptable to human environments. Sometimes they are even quite a plague. Image: Asienreisender 2012

Since these macaques eat almost anything and don't fear humans, they feed also from human food and food remains. That makes human environments quite attractive to them. Since they are considered holy for certain people in Southeast Asia and do not get hunted, there are at some places great overpopulations of macaques. Here and there they become kind of a local attraction (e.g. on the northern rock in Pretchuap Khiri Khan in South Thailand). Hundreds, if not thousands of macaques are there around then, receiving food from tourists and are not shy to enter the village, town or city to search for more food. They plunder dustbins and shops. I have seen macaques stealing bags of cookies and crisps from shops, I have seen macaques in kitchens opening fridges and taking eggs out - making a great mess there. They go sometimes on freshmarkets to pick food from the stalls.
At the Andaman sea coasts macaques have been seen using stone tools to open nuts, oysters and kinds of sea snails.

So it looks when a photographer get's attacked by a macaque. Image: Asienreisender, 2005, Khao Sok National Park, South Thailand

Occacionally I encountered macaque groups when hiking the forests or jungles. They block the path and don't let me go ahead then. On the contrary, they try to surround me and blocking the way back as well. I am very aware of this kind of behaviour and retreat so long I still can. The groups are always led by a big male. If there are some other big males, lower in rank in the group, it get's more dangerous; if the rest of the group consists only of women and mostly juveniles and kids, it's not so bad. These big guys are not shy and can become quite aggressive. If they want food they take it if they can. If they suppose me to have food in my bag, they want the bag. Getting bitten by a macaque can be a serious threat to ones health. It's not only the rabies danger and a number of other infections it could cause - particularly macaques can transfer the herpes B virus, which can be letal. That's also the reason why macaques are seldom kept as pets.
Therefore they are kept by farmers to harvest coconuts. These macaques are trained to climb the high coconut trees and to pick the coconuts for the farmers.
Besides, many of them end up in medical laboratories, where they are 'used' extensively, being the victim for the ugliest animal trials. Most of the trials are good for nothing except for the creation of new make-ups and lipsticks and artificial aromas and so on. Creating new crap for new markets.

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Published on July 25th, 2012