Making Friends with Macaques


Macaques are often seen as a menace; they are infamous for chasing after unsuspecting passers-by for food. Macaca fascicularis (long-tailed macaque) is commonly found in forest areas and mangroves and like to live near humans as they can raid homes, gardens and farms for food. Macaques are said to have been first introduced to Southeast Asia in the 1600s by Portuguese explorers. They have a daily routine of wandering around their 1.25km home range to look for food – but they ensure they have a midday nap (although the young ones are said to play while the adults sleep). Before dark, they search for food on their way to the trees that are their regular roosting sites.

macaque on roots

Family groups take over a single tree and sleep huddled together for warmth. They usually choose trees near a river, and opt to sleep on branches near the very top (crown) of the tree, overhanging the river. Macaques have many predators, including monitor lizards, pythons, eagles and wild cats. As they are excellent swimmers, they just drop off their roosts into the water if surprised by a predator overnight and swim to safety.

It is never a good idea to feed macaques as they can become aggressive in their excitement to get the food and it encourages them to see humans as a food source. Smiling at a monkey can be mistaken as an act of aggression – if it bares its teeth at you in return, it is a warning to stay away!