About Long-Tailed Macaques
Macaques refer to monkeys in the genus Macaca. The long-tailed macaque, also known as the crab-eating macaque (Macaca fascicularis), is the only macaque native to Singapore. They are also the most common species of non-human primate in Singapore and are characterised by their long tails. Adults have white fur on their eyelids, whiskers on their cheeks with brown and grey bodies. Babies are born with a black coat. Long-tailed macaques have also been classified as Vulnerable on the IUCN Red List.
Macaques have natural roles to play in the ecosystem, for example, seed dispersal. They also forage on a variety of things like leaves, flowers, fruits, insects, snakes and even crabs, keeping the balance in the ecosystem.
Why am I seeing a macaque in my neighbourhood?
Macaques live at forest edges. However, being generalist feeders, macaques eat a wide range of food, and some Long-tailed Macaques have learned to associate humans with food. This is due to several reasons, including feeding by people who may think they are doing an act of kindness. This may draw macaques further into urban areas, especially such areas that are closer to the natural living spaces for macaques, and increase the zone of interaction between humans and macaques. Macaques have also learned to scavenge for food in rubbish bins, and enter houses and shops to look for food. These are just some of the many things the intelligent monkeys have learned from living close to us.
If you see a lone macaque in an urban area, including residential neighbourhoods and industrial areas, they are likely to be a transient individual who is moving through the area to get to other suitable habitats. Transients, usually adult male macaques, leave their troop to join another troop or form a new troop when they reach maturity. It usually takes a transient macaque a few weeks to find a suitable location and settle down, but will stay longer if there is food provisioning.
What are some threats to macaques in Singapore?
Macaques are also frequent victims of habitat loss and alteration and therefore, roadkill, with over 20 individuals reported in a year (2020 ACRES records).
Food provisioning by humans can also potentially impact their health from consuming human food that is high in salt and sugar.
Unfortunately, increased interactions, combined with inappropriate wildlife etiquette, can result in potential human-macaque conflict. Such situations may result in complaints or requests to relocate them.
Relocation is not a long-term solution due to limited natural habitats, conflicts with other troops and the stress that they can go through.
Did you know?
Just like us humans, macaques also have different facial expressions, each with different meanings. Never stare at them, or mimic their facial expressions as it can result in the macaque charging or lunging at you.
Do's and Don'ts
What should I do if I see macaques in forested areas of green spaces, parks and park connectors?
These areas are the macaques’ natural homes and foraging grounds, and it is important to give them space in their own habitat.
If you see them in any of those areas, keep a distance.
Do not go close to take photos, and do not use flash.
If you need to pass by a lone macaque or a troop of macaques, just calmly walk by, and do not stare or maintain eye contact as that might be interpreted as a threat.
Do not mimic any facial expressions that you see on macaques, such as grinning with your teeth exposed or yawning – these could be seen as threatening behaviour to the macaques.
Do not carry any food or drinks in your hand or in plastic bags – if you have food items with you, keep them well-packed inside your bag.
If you are walking a dog, keep your dog on a tight leash, and increase the distance between the macaque(s) and your dog as far as possible. Try to position yourself to walk in between the macaque(s) and your dog.
What should I do if I see a macaque in my neighbourhood or backyard?
Do not feed macaques or allow any access to human food sources (directly or indirectly), as these will only encourage them to stay longer in the area. Macaques have enough food in the forest. According to the Wildlife Act, feeding of wildlife is an offence that carries a fine of up to S$10,000.
Practise proper food waste management. Throw all food waste into bins and secure bin lids with a bungee cord or by placing something heavy on top.
NParks conducts regular biosurveillance to monitor potential zoonotic threats caused by macaques, as well as other animals. To date, NParks’ biosurveillance programmes have not detected any transmissible zoonotic diseases in our macaques. NParks will continue to closely monitor the local macaque population.
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