When I was in Bali (Indonesia) recently, like many tourists, I visited the Ubud Monkey Forest; also called the Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary. This relatively small (10 ha) site, as the name suggests, is famous for its monkeys. Officially known as Crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis), these monkeys are also called long-tailed macaques or locally, Balinese long-tailed monkeys.
The monkeys are an object of fascination, but demand respect because they can bite if you are not careful. They are well fed and there are plenty of attendants at hand to make sure that humans and monkeys are kept apart, but the monkeys are intensely interested in bags and rucksacks, which they know may contain food. The dominant males have a fearsome set of fangs (below).
Unfortunately, some people are careless with their food, and either drop, or deliberately give the monkeys inappropriate food, such as chocolate biscuits (see below). Like some of us, this monkey seemed to enjoy licking off the cream from the biscuits!
The reason why we enjoy looking at monkeys (and apes) is of course because they are so much like ourselves. How anyone could have ever doubted that were were not just descended from the apes, but an ape ourselves – and very much like a monkey too – is beyond me. You only have to spend a few moments in the company of monkeys such as these to realise that we have so much in common. Their behaviour is essentially the same as ours. It’s all there: maternal love, play, jealousy, conflict, sloth, companionship, sex and so on.
The long tail provides an easy way to hang on to an infant!
Crab-eating macaques live in social groups comprising up to twenty females and their off-spring. The young males disperse when they reach puberty. I assume that the juvenile and infant in the following photo are siblings.
Scientists sometimes pretend that they do not anthropomorphise when studying animals such as these, but because of our shared ancestry, it is impossible not to project our thoughts and feelings onto them and to try to interpret their expressions. What is this infant thinking?
We can all relate to someone having a little snooze or afternoon siesta!
Quite what was going through this chap’s mind I am not sure! I will leave you, dear reader, to do your own anthropomorphising!
Grooming has a social function. Like monkeys, we are bereft without the company and physical presence of others, although in our society many of us rely on pets to provide the necessary contact.
I am an entomologist with a background in quarantine pests and invasive invertebrates. I studied zoology at Imperial College (University of London) and did a PhD on the population dynamics of a cereal aphid (Metopolophium dirhodum) in the UK. I spent 5 years with the British Antarctic Survey studing cold hardiness of Antarctic invertebates and 17 years with the Food and Environment Research Agency. My main interests now are natural history, photography, painting and bird watching.