There is something about monkeys that makes us feel close to them. Some of us consider them our divine ancestors, others are tired of the mischief they can cause by stealing any object they can lay their hands on. And we have begun to interact more with the monkeys as their habitats are destroyed rapidly.
Massive deforestation and depletion in their sources of food have meant that they have begun to depend on humans for their sustenance. In such a situation is it right for us to interact more with a monkey or do we leave them alone for their good.
The research was conducted on the rhesus macaques, common in India and other parts of Asia, in the West Bengal Buxa Tiger Reserve. Studies were conducted on the influence that food provided by humans had on the monkeys and also how their behavior influenced humans.
Begging Is Easier For The Monkeys Than Scouring The Forest
Rhesus monkey is vital to forest ecology because they help in dispersing seeds. But the scarcity of food has made them beg on the roadside for scraps of food from the motorists. Access to human food comes easily in most parts of India. The animals rely on the forest for leaves, fruits, insects, and flowers between May and September when the visitors to Buxa drop to a trickle.
But during the tourist season between October and April, the primates rely less on leaves and more on the food given by the visitors. It has been found that a monkey spends 26 times the amount of time they spend during the tourist off-season.
Visitors give the monkeys cakes, biscuits, cookies, banana chips, and bread from the tea stalls nearby. The primates get 27% of their food from humans. These provisional foods are rich in calories and easily digestible. But they also cause hormonal imbalance, increase levels of stress, and increase aggressive behavior among groups. It also affects their reproductive cycle.
People cited religious belief, pity, and care for feeding the monkeys. But 72% of residents said that they desisted from feeding the monkeys. They were aware that it was illegal and said that feeding them led the primates to be more aggressive in their behavior.
Another risk of heightened interaction is the chance of transmitting diseases among humans and monkeys. Researchers say that it is time people are encouraged to stay away from interacting too closely with the monkeys for their good.