Written by Sia Sin Wei, JGIS Monkey Guard
The Jane Goodall Institute (JGI), a global nonprofit organization, was founded in 1977 to continue Dr Goodall’s pioneering research on chimpanzee behaviour that transformed the perception of human-wildlife relationships. 30 years later, JGI Singapore (JGIS) was formed to advocate for local primate species through education and conservation, and to share the importance of coexistence.
JGIS is a partner of OWN and one of their goals is to empower young people to make a positive impact for our wildlife and the environment. One of their many volunteering opportunities is Monkey Guarding — a programme that provides a humane solution to managing conflicts between people and long-tailed macaques in our urban environment.
OWN invited one of JGIS committed volunteer to give us an insight of what monkey guarding is all about and to share the current efforts in Windsor Estate:
SIA SIN WEI
Hello everyone! We are the Monkey Guards of Jane Goodall Institute of Singapore (JGIS). We are a group of volunteers who share one common passion for contributing to harmonious human-wildlife relationships in Singapore with a focus on long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis). We work on human-wildlife conflict mitigation and educate the public through joint efforts with the Long-tailed Macaque Working Group (LTMWG), where JGIS is also a part of.
As monkey guards, we patrol hotspots where humans and macaques interact. We are trained in applying our knowledge of macaque behaviour to deter and prevent monkeys from entering places where they shouldn’t go - like resident premises! Contrary to popular belief, we don’t try to make macaques disappear from such areas permanently. In Singapore where we are fortunate to be surrounded by nature, we can expect to see wildlife like monkeys, hence it is important to learn to live alongside these wild neighbours.
Education and outreach is important. To that effect, we always make ourselves available and approachable to any resident who might want to give us a monkey tipoff or talk about their own monkey encounters. We welcome all intelligence that might help us understand how the local macaques behave and any chance that might enable us to learn about resident needs and attitudes. By providing useful tips to residents on the do’s and dont’s when encountering monkeys, we hope that there can be fewer human-wildlife conflicts, and that people can better appreciate our biodiversity.
We do not collect data and observations in a vacuum! The data and observations we gather inform the LTMWG, which uses the information to plan on other hotspots we should intervene in and craft out measures to put into place to prevent negative interactions between people and monkeys.
Covid forced a suspension on our activities, but once we could resume, we decided to assist the residents of the private housing estate surrounding Windsor Nature Park. So what do we usually see while Monkey Guarding? Come along with us!
Sometimes we can observe macaques going about their daily business. This one (image above) is consuming the fruit by the Sterculia trees cultivated on the road side. While we let them be when they consume natural food, these macaques need to be kept from accessing food provided by humans, which drives human-macaque conflict and unbalances the ecosystem. We try to remove access to such sources when we can, but we advise residents to take precautions as well.
It is not uncommon to see macaques sitting on top of the houses, surveying their realm.
Sometimes, monkey guards are treated to tender moments like this! It is always nice to see them relax and groom each other, even if it is done on someone else’s roof.
After romping through the residential estate, the macaques hang around this playground and the carpark just next to Windsor Nature Park. The juveniles engage in playtime while the watchful adults look out for signs of danger.
After an antic-filled morning, it is time to return to the surrounding forest for a well-deserved noon siesta.
While we enjoy working with these lovely primates, we do not work in isolation. Here in JGIS, we do and continue to collaborate with other stakeholders in the nature community - with the Our Wild Neighbours campaign being just one of the ways we do so.
Our Wild Neighbours campaign aims to raise the awareness of the need to coexist with wildlife in our midst because a wildlife-aware and friendly community is essential if we are to achieve our goal of becoming a City in Nature. The JGIS Monkey Guards team is glad to have contributed in our own little ways to such a meaningful and important vision, and we hope that everyone learns to embrace the wildlife around them too!
Learn more about long-tailed macaques on our information page and download our advisory to get tips on what you can do when you encounter one: