Oh, I know what you’re thinking. You’re thinking ‘what have you got against cute little monkeys, you horrible man?’
In the wild, I’m sure a macaque is a majestic creature that leaps from tree to tree before settling down for some serious grooming. But no-one sees them in the wild. Everyone sees macaques at heavily trafficked tourist attractions. And if a species becomes too accustomed to human interaction, it becomes just a little too confident. In Sydney, the ibis is always pinching sandwiches and rifling through the rubbish. At Iguazu Falls in Argentina, it’s the coatis. Every place has its ruiner of picnics.
In Southeast Asia, it’s the macaque. And they’re worse than the others, because they’re more devious. They rifle through bags. They run off with phones. They snatch food from the hands of children. They break into kitchens in search of food. I’ve personally witnessed two of them on a ledge, peering into a window, trying to figure out how to break into an apartment. They have no respect for property. They should all wear hamburgler-style robber masks.
What’s more, they have no fear of humans. I’ve been chased down a staircase by a dozen-strong pack of them. And at times, things get genuinely serious. They have sharp teeth and they can carry very serious diseases. There’s even one reported case of a macaque killing an infant.
Still think they’re cute? Well, take a look at this guy:
Seriously, he’s terrifying. He’s a brick shithouse on steroids by macaque standards. He’s the alpha male of the group, and obviously he’s willing to fight to maintain his status. He’s still the boss, even after someone or something ripped part of his face off.
And when he’s not sniffing around the ladies, he’s busy rifling through belongings and picking fights over stray coconuts.
Now I know, I know. It’s not their fault. Humans have encroached on their habitat. Foolish tourists have encouraged them by feeding them, and any animal will accept a free meal. And they were the lab monkeys fo choice for decades, so they have every reason not to like us.
But there is at least one thing travellers can do; obey the signs that say don’t feed the monkeys. It’s not good for them, and if one decides to bite you on the hand, it’s not good for you either. In Singapore, there are heavy fines for feeding the monkeys, and that seems pretty sensible to me. I’d personally be happy to dob in anyone who chucks a piece of fruit at a macaque.