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Macaque–Human Interactions in Past and Present-Day Sri Lanka


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Sri Lanka’s toque macaque is an endemic endangered species. Current information about the nature and diversity of their interactions with humans are limited. We conducted 307 interviews across the country using a standardized questionnaire to help clarify this. Overall, 51% believed that primate numbers were increasing, but trends varied regionally, with some provinces reporting noticeable decreases in monkey sightings while others reported increased visits by monkeys to garden plots. This may be due to variation in the intensity of human development and forest fragmentation either forcing primates closer to human habitation in search of food or driving them closer to local extinction in more developed urban and industry based provinces. This terrestrial, omnivorous species is considered a pest. For the most part they are tolerated, but in certain provinces they are responsible for significant economic damage to crops, and are treated more severely. Both Buddhists and Hindus treat macaques with reverence, and they are particularly visible in the vicinity of temples and historical areas because of a continuous supply of religious food offerings, from which feeding on is tolerated. The killing of any wild animal, including primates is against the law and prohibited by religious beliefs. Nonetheless, hunting for food and a rich belief array of medicinal and ritual uses was reported to occur at very low frequency in rural areas
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S. Radhakrishna et al. (eds.), The Macaque Connection: Cooperation and Conflict
between Humans and Macaques, Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects 43,
DOI 10.1007/978-1-4614-3967-7_9, © Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2013
9.1 Introduction
In spite of Sri Lanka’s relatively small size (64,740 km
), the island supports a high
level of biodiversity and endemism (Gunathilleke and Gunathilleke 1983 ; Erdelen
1988 ) . Part of the reason for this high degree of biodiversity is the variety of habi-
tats found between sea level and the highest peak, 2,524 m asl in the central high-
lands. The habitat types include mangrove forest, grassland, semiarid thorn forest
and shrub land, tropical evergreen rain forests, dry mix evergreen, intermediate
moist evergreen, highland evergreen, and temperate forests (Erdelen 1988 ) . There
are ve primate species in Sri Lanka, the toque macaque ( Macaca sinica ), the
gray-handed crested langur ( Semnopithecus priam thersites ), the purple-faced leaf
langur ( Trachypithecus vetulus ), and the two nocturnal lorises ( L. tardigradus and
L. lydekkerianus ). With the exception of S. priam and L. lydekkerianus , all are
endemic and classi ed as endangered or critically endangered (Dela 2007 ; Rudran
2007 ; Nahallage and Huffman 2008 ) .
Sri Lanka is primarily an agricultural country, and over the last few decades, due
to agricultural, irrigational, and industrial projects and an increase in the human
population and urban expansion, natural forested areas have declined rapidly
(Erdelen 1988 ; Wickramagamage 1998 ) . Owing to fragmentation of forests in the
wet and dry zones, primates are increasingly frequenting farms and agricultural
plots in search of alternative food resources (Nahallage and Huffman
2008 ) . This is
the main cause for primate–human con ict today.
C. A. D. Nahallage (*)
Department of Sociology and Anthropology , University of Sri Jayewardenepura ,
Gangodawila, Nugegoda, Colombo , Sri Lanka
M. A. Huffman
Department of Social Systems Evolution, Primate Research Institute ,
Kyoto University , 41-2 Kanrin , Inuyama, Aichi 484-8506 , Japan
Chapter 9
Macaque–Human Interactions in Past
and Present-Day Sri Lanka
Charmalie A. D. Nahallage and Michael A. Huffman
C.A.D. Nahallage and M.A. Huffman
However, in Sri Lanka, the peoples’ religious beliefs and cultural practices
play an important role in de ning the terms of primate–human interactions and
re ect the past, present, and potential future of their coexistence. An important
feature of this country is the presence of monkeys at Buddhist and Hindu temples.
For example, the North Central Province city of Anuradhapura, formerly the
ancient capital of the country from the fourth century BC to the eleventh century
AD, has been protected as a holy site. Named as a UNESCO World Heritage Site,
Anuradhapura is visited daily by a large number of local and international tourists
alike (Fig. 9.1 ). The expansive area of woodland surrounding this religious site,
protected from development due to its cultural and religious signi cance, is home
to a large population of primates that forage on the natural vegetation. The mon-
keys are habituated to humans and freely range in and around the sacred sites
undisturbed by tolerant monks and tourists. The constant supply of food offerings
given to them by religious followers and tourists keep macaques and langurs
around the temple grounds. Like Anuradhapura, there are many large and small
Buddhist and Hindu temples across the country where primates are protected by
the peoples’ religious and cultural beliefs, i.e., Kandy, Sigiriya, Dambulla (Central
Province), Kelaniya, Kalutara (Western Province), Rumassala, Sella Kataragama,
Fig. 9.1 People and primates coexist harmoniously in religious temple grounds. Religious devotees
pray and provide food for monkeys as religious offering at the Ruwanwelisaya Stupa ( upper left ,
right , lower left ). A priest resting on the steps with gray langurs grooming nearby in the Kataragama
temple grounds ( lower right ) (Photos by M. A. Huffman)
9 Macaque–Human Interactions in Past and Present-Day Sri Lanka
Kataragama, Sithulpawwa, and Vadasitykanda (Southern Province). These are
places where primate–human interactions are relatively harmonious (Fig. 9.1 ).
Among the ve primate species inhabiting Sri Lanka, more is known about the
behavioral ecology of the toque macaque than the other primate species. An
impressive longitudinal study begun in the 1970s investigated various aspects,
such as the social behavior, demography, ecology, disease etiology, and conserva-
tion of the toque macaque population in Polonnaruwa (another protected reli-
gious-historical site in the North Central Province). The results from this long-term
project (e.g., Dittus
1977, 1986, 1998, 2004 ; Hoelzer et al. 1994 ; Ekanayake et al.
2007 ) form the majority of detailed published information about this endemic
macaque species today.
One area of research that has received little attention in Sri Lanka is the growing
eld of ethnoprimatology, the multidisciplinary investigation of humans and nonhu-
man primate interactions (e.g., Loudon et al. 2006 ; Paterson and Wallis 2005 ; Wolfe
and Fuentes 2007 ; Fuentes and Hawkins 2010 ; Hill and Webber 2010 ). In this chap-
ter, we present results from questionnaires and eld surveys investigating how Sri
Lankans view primates, their cultural practices, beliefs, and the state of primate–
human interactions in a rapidly developing and changing country. It is not the goal
of this chapter to provide a picture of the conservation status of primates in the
country but rather to describe the relationship humans have had with macaques and
other primate species in general, from both a historical and contemporary perspec-
tive. We address such questions as: What place does the toque macaque occupy in
Sri Lankan folklore and literature? How do people relate to the toque macaque vis-
à-vis the langurs in Sri Lanka? What are the major causes of con ict between toque
macaques and humans in Sri Lanka?
9.2 Methods
The study was conducted by direct observation and through formal interviews using
a standardized questionnaire. Informed consent was obtained before each interview.
The study abided by all laws of Sri Lanka, and the protocol and permission to con-
duct the study was approved by the Department of Wildlife Conservation. A total of
307 formal interviews were conducted (129 women, 178 men) with participants
ranging in age from 18 to 85 years. A breakdown of the respondents by status is
listed in Table 9.1 . The data presented here were collected during our eld visits
(5–20 February, 2007; 23 February–3 March, 2009, N = 127) and by trained under-
graduate students from the University of Sri Jayewardenepura and the University of
Uva during the period 2007–2009 ( N = 180).
Administratively, Sri Lanka is divided into 9 provinces and 25 districts (Fig.
9.2 ).
Students were selected based on their province and area of origin to obtain data
from as many different districts as possible. In total, 23 districts from these 9
provinces are represented in this database. A breakdown of the questionnaires by
province is given in Table
9.2 . The unbalanced representation of the provinces is
C.A.D. Nahallage and M.A. Huffman
due to the war in the Northern and Eastern Provinces during the above study peri-
ods, which made it dif cult to visit or to nd students originating from these areas
to conduct interviews.
Respondents were shown close-up, full-body pictures of each primate species
with their common names in Sinhalese, Tamil, and English to minimize confusion
and increase accuracy. The questionnaire included 28 questions on topics including
primates species seen in the area, the approximate number of groups and their group
size, (whether they damage crops) their preferred food items, the measures taken by
the people to prevent primates damaging the crops, whether they were aware of
hunting of primates for food in their respective areas, use of primate body parts for
medicinal and ritual purposes, and primate myths and folklore known of or heard
about by the respondents.
9.3 Results
9.3.1 The Perceived Trends of Local Primate Population
Size and Damage to Crops
When asked about the current number of primates in their area compared to earlier
times, 51% of all respondents believed that they had increased in recent years. (It
was not our intention to use this response as a measure of population size but rather
as a means of estimating any relative change in the frequency of contact between
people and primates in recent times.) In some provinces, the majority of respon-
dents said that contact with primates was increasing (Central, 92%; North Central,
75%; Uva, 71%; North Western, 68%; Southern, 53%), while in other provinces, the
majority thought their numbers were declining (Western, 41%; Eastern, 64%;
Sabaragamuwa, 59%). Eighty-nine percent of respondents said that primates raid
Table 9.1 Breakdown of the
status of respondents
Respondent status Frequency
Farmer 48
Small-scale vegetable and fruit vendor 26
Student 84
People in national parks 26
Housewife 19
Retired government of fi cer 14
Teacher 7
Laborer 6
Buddhist priest 6
Private business owner 4
Traditional doctor 2
Security guard 2
Not speci fi ed 25
9 Macaque–Human Interactions in Past and Present-Day Sri Lanka
Fig. 9.2 Administrative province and district map of Sri Lanka (Source: Produced by Dr. Janet
C.A.D. Nahallage and M.A. Huffman
crops, and 60% considered them as pests. Forty-eight percent thought that primates
were afraid of people, while 45% said they were not, and some (7%) had no opinion
one way or the other.
People used various techniques to protect their crops from monkeys (Table 9.3 ).
Respondents on average reported 2.5 (SD 1.38, range 1–6) different methods; the
Table 9.3 Prevention methods used against crop-raiding monkeys ( N = 307)
Method Percentage usage
Firecrackers 31
Making loud sounds 22
Shooting 10
Using traps 9
Throwing stones 7
Catapulting/sling-shooting stones 5
Scarecrow 3
Using dogs 2
Poisoning 2
Hanging dead monkeys in the trees 1
Placing cut trees and branches around garden 1
Covering crops with nets 1
Other methods 6
Using mirrors 0.8
Guarding 0.8
Hanging polythene strips, bags 0.6
Applying cow dung 0.6
Hanging red ags and umbrellas 0.6
Hanging shiny objects 0.5
Using nets 0.3
Sprinkling gun powder 0.3
Dynamite 0.2
Applying black oil to fruit tree trunks 0.2
Table 9.2 Province-wise
distribution of questionnaires
Province Percentage respondents
Western 26
Southern 24
Sabaragamuwa 15
North Western 10
Uva 7
North Central 7
Central 5
Eastern 5
Northern 3
9 Macaque–Human Interactions in Past and Present-Day Sri Lanka
most common was the use of recrackers (31%) or making other loud sounds (22%).
Trapping or shooting monkeys (19%) was practiced most frequently in the Southern,
Sabaragamuwa, and North Western Provinces.
9.3.2 Use of Nonhuman Primates as Pets and Performers
Most people said they preferred toque macaques as pets because they believed that
macaques resemble humans more closely than langurs and adapt better to captivity.
In North Central, North Western, and Sabaragamuwa Provinces, toque macaques
are used as performers for pro t (Fig. 9.3 ). Trained macaques are taken to urban
neighborhoods, villages, and to public places such as parks and temple grounds to
entertain the crowds. The most common performances were scenes such as visiting
parents-in-law during the New Year, carrying a box of gifts on the head while walk-
ing upright on hind legs, or being punished by the police for stealing. Toque indi-
viduals are usually dressed in a pair of trousers and a shirt and constrained by a
leash. Typically, the cost is equivalent to one US dollar per performance.
Fig. 9.3 Agriculture pests, temple guardians, or entertainers, macaques are regarded in many
different ways across the country. Small-scale farmers selling their produce at roadside stands near
their homes ( upper left ), commercial farmers ( upper right ), and roadside food vendors ( lower left )
are often the target of crop-raiding monkeys (Photos by M. A. Huffman). A toque macaque per-
forming in front of a private home in a suburb near Colombo ( lower right ). (Photo by C. A. D.
C.A.D. Nahallage and M.A. Huffman
9.3.3 Primates as Food, Medicine, and Ritual Objects
With the exception of Northern Province, primates are hunted for food everywhere
but at a very low frequency and in secret. Forty-seven percent noted that people in
their respective areas hunted primates for food, while 42% said hunting did not
occur, and 11% said they were not sure.
Primates are also hunted for body parts to be used as medicine (Table 9.4 ) and
for ritual activities; this occurred very infrequently and only in rural areas. There are
marked province-wise similarities and differences in this belief system, suggesting
that it was historically practiced throughout the country. In Central Province, for
“apala” (ritual practiced against unfavorable positions of the planets in one’s horo-
scope), the intestine of a macaque is wrapped around the neck of an affected person
at dawn, and he/she is not allowed to speak during the treatment. In North Western
Province, loris tears mixed with other ingredients are ritually smeared on a plate to
see into the future. In Sabaragamuwa Province, the heart of the purple-faced langur
is given to pregnant women, and the skull, skin, and penis are used in “thovil,”
another traditional healing ritual. Also, the meat and bones are used for “huniyam”
(a practice akin to black magic or voodoo). In Uva Province, langur heart, when
Table 9.4 Use of primate body parts for medicinal purposes
Species/part Ailment C N NC NW E Sb S U W
Langur meat Asthma
Meat Poor eyesight
Meat Leprosy
Meat Malnutrition, piles
Meat Malnutrition
Meat Heartburn, kidney and
lung diseases
Meat Boils, TB
Meat Heart and lung diseases
Liver Malnutrition
Heart Malnutrition
Hands, tail Cracks in hands and feet
Stomach contents Malnutrition
Oil Burns
Macaque meat Piles
Meat Asthma
Meat Whooping cough, piles
Meat stomach content Malnutrition
Feces Whooping cough
Oil Fractures
Urine Snake bites
Loris tears Not speci fi ed
Province: C Central, N Northern, NC North Central, NW North Western, E
Eastern, Sb
Sabaragamuwa, S Southern, U Uva, W Western
9 Macaque–Human Interactions in Past and Present-Day Sri Lanka
consumed, is believed to increase one’s intelligence. In Western Province, both
toque macaque and purple-faced langur skins are used to make drums.
9.3.4 Primates in Folklore, Myth, and Other Narrations
Folklore and myths regarding primates are abundant in Sri Lanka. The majority of
the population practice Buddhism, introduced approximately 2,500 years ago, and
many related folklore regarding primates can be found. The Jataka stories, originat-
ing from India, revolve around the 550 rebirths of the bodhisattva before attaining
buddhahood. In 22 of these stories, the bodhisattva was born as a monkey, and these
stories highlight the kindness, forgiveness, helpfulness, intelligence, and patience of
bodhisattva through the behavior of monkeys in different situations (e.g., Nalapana
Jataka, Kapi Jataka, Vanarinda Jataka, and Tayodhamma Jataka). Other primate
folklore in Sri Lanka also highlight their intelligence and curiosity. For example, the
monkey that lost its tail by being too curious or the one that injured its face by trying
to imitate a person shaving his beard. One that appears in many cultures is about the
hat seller who got his hats back from a troop of thieving monkeys by getting the
troop to imitate his actions, taking off his own hat, and throwing it to the ground.
A famous Hindu epic poem, the Ramayana , is also very popular in Sri Lanka with
both the Hindus and the Buddhists. A central character, Hanuman (the monkey god
worshipped by Hindus), is the brave leader of an army of monkeys, who ies to Sri
Lanka in search of Sita, kidnapped by the Sri Lankan king, Ravana (Fig. 9.2 ).
Myths and beliefs about primates differ across the country. For example, some
communities in the Northern and Western Provinces believe that it is good luck to
see monkeys when they leave the house, whereas some communities in North
Western, North Central, Southern, and Western Provinces believe that if a monkey
calls out just before someone leaves the house for work in the morning, it will bring
bad luck and the person will not be able to carry out their work as planned. In
Southern, Uva, and Western Provinces, people believe that the right side of a langurs
body is made of human esh, so they refrain from eating them altogether or do not
use any part of the right side of the animal’s body. In Sabaragamuwa Province, peo-
ple believe that if a monkey enters into the house through the kitchen door, some-
body in the house will fall seriously ill. It is also believed that macaques were created
by the demon “Wasawarthi Mara” to cause trouble for villagers. Another animal cre-
ated by him is thought to be the wild pig, another source of damage to garden plots.
9.4 Discussion
Like other “weed species” in the genus Macaca, in our survey, toque macaques
were frequently found in close proximity to human habitations (Guatier and Biquand
1994 ; Lee and Priston 2005 ; Richard et al. 1989 ) . The gray langur and purple-faced
C.A.D. Nahallage and M.A. Huffman
langur can also be classi able as a kind of “weed species,” given their ability to live
close to human habitations. Though their diets are less omnivorous than macaques,
their food habits do overlap, and they forage in crop elds and kitchen gardens in
villages, towns, and cities across the country. Not surprisingly, this close proximity
to humans has long been a source of con ict, which is mirrored by similar situations
throughout the distribution of other macaque species and langurs across Asia (e.g.,
Fuentes et al.
2005 ; Fuentes and Hawkins 2010 ; Riley 2007 ; Sha et al. 2009 ;
Southwick et al. 1961 ; Sponsel et al. 2002 ; Watanabe and Muroyama 2005 ) .
Long-term analysis of trends showing an increase in contact and con ict between
humans and macaques was documented in Japan by Watanabe and Muroyama
( 2005 ) . They attributed this increase in the visibility of previously timid macaques
to species range expansion caused by deforestation and a resultant decrease in
natural food resources, increased acculturation to human environments, and a less
fearful attitude towards humans due to the aging population of farmers living in the
countryside. Respondents to our questionnaire in some parts of Sri Lanka believed
that primate populations had increased in the last several years. In the absence of
reliable studies on regional primate densities, it is not possible to af rm or refute
these claims. In the absence of reliable primate population estimates for the country,
we can only interpret our results as indicative of an increase in contact with primates,
possibly due to some of the same factors identi ed by Watanabe and Muroyama
( 2005 ) , e.g., forest fragmentation and habitat loss due to an increase in development
activities. Interestingly, many people opined that toque macaques and langurs were
forced to come closer to human settlements in search of food resulting in increased
contact with people. Respondents in Galle District, Southern Province, stated that
earlier, purple-faced langurs were seen only in the forests and hardly came to the
village, but with the reduction of local forests, they are now frequent visitors. In the
more urbanized and industrialized Western Province, respondents said that the purple-
faced langur population had decreased because they saw fewer of them in recent
years. Rudran ( 2007 ) states that only a few forest patches remain at the edge of the
province and that most langur populations are restricted to these patches and to the
surrounding areas.
Toque macaques and langur species are not distributed equally throughout Sri
Lanka (Nahallage and Huffman 2008 ) ; as a result, the damage caused by them dif-
fers with location. For example, in places where all three species can be found
(Matale District and Nuwaraeliya District, Central Province, Badulla and Monaragala
Districts, Uva Province), toque macaques are considered the most serious crop raid-
ers. Also in Central and North Western provinces, where toque macaque numbers
are said to be larger, they are considered as more serious pests than langurs. Purple-
faced langurs are the most prominent species found in Western and some parts of
Southern Province (Galle District). They cause more crop damage and are consid-
ered greater pests in these areas than toque macaques. In some parts of the Southern
(Hambanthota District) and North Central Provinces, gray langurs cause greater
crop damage than purple-faced langurs or toque macaques.
The methods used to prevent crop raiding differed from place to place and was largely
dependent on the socioeconomic status of the area (Nahallage and Huffman 2008 ) .
9 Macaque–Human Interactions in Past and Present-Day Sri Lanka
In Western Province, the most common methods used to prevent crop raiding were
recrackers, throwing stones, and making loud sounds. These methods were quite
effective in chasing purple-faced langurs away and are harmless. Here, purple-faced
langurs were mainly seen in home gardens eating food grown for household con-
sumption. For this reason, they were considered more of a nuisance than a serious
pest. For the most part, people in this region tolerated them. In Central, North
Central, North Western, Southern, and Sabaragamuwa Provinces, areas of large-
scale commercial farming, macaques caused more serious economic damage
9.3 ) and were less favorably looked at. In these cases, people had harsher
opinions and used stronger methods to prevent macaques from raiding crops, such
as shooting and trapping.
Among the indigenous people of lowland South America, primates are viewed as
both symbols of power and as food. In a review by Cormier ( 2006 ) , a general ten-
dency was noted for larger bodied primates to be hunted for food; however, they
were also more likely to be associated with taboos and not eaten by individuals of
certain ritual (age, sex, reproductive state) or social status or revered as having come
from former human beings or created by a divine being. Some of the indigenous
communities avoid certain primate species as food because of their close resem-
blance to humans (Cormier 2006 ) . In our survey, some respondents said that pri-
mates were hunted for food, but that it was not a common practice. The main reason
for this low frequency is religious as Buddhism and Hinduism eschew killing ani-
mals (Nahallage and Huffman 2008 ; Rudran 2007 ) . When hunted, however, the
langur species were reportedly preferred over toque macaques because of their
larger body size. In many areas, people believed that langur meat is especially good for
treating certain diseases, such as asthma, leprosy, malnutrition, and piles. As langurs
are leaf-eating primates, the respondents reasoned that many of the leaves eaten by
the langurs are of high medicinal and nutritional value; therefore, the meat should
be good for use as medicine. Furthermore, it is interesting to note that most people
in the rural villages believed that primate organs, especially heart and lungs, can be
transplanted to humans. This belief likely originates from the close similarity they
perceive between primates and themselves, not only in anatomy but in social behav-
ior as well. Another important feature of human–primate interaction in Sri Lanka
is the presence of a large number of primates in and around the Buddhist and
Hindu temples. There are many famous temples throughout the country visited
daily by large numbers of pilgrims. These places play an important role in conserv-
ing endangered primates. Other examples from different countries include Lopburi
in Thailand; Chamundi Hills in Mysore, India; and Ubud Monkey Forest in Bali
(Fuentes et al. 2005 ; Loudon et al. 2006 ; Watanabe et al. 2007 ; Wheatley 1999 ;
Wolfe and Fuentes 2007 ; authors’ personal observations).
In habitat-source countries, primates are intricately enmeshed into the daily lives
through folktales and myths (i.e., Ashliman 2011 ; Cormier 2006 ; Loudon et al.
2006 ; Riley and Priston 2010 ; Shahar 1992 ) . People have likely incorporated mon-
keys so easily into these stories because of the close similarity between the two
species. People in the rural areas of Sri Lanka still strongly believe these myths
about primates, and the fear of retribution prevents the majority of people from
C.A.D. Nahallage and M.A. Huffman
harming monkeys. The major threat for their survival is the loss of habitat and
con ict with farmers, which is more pronounced in some provinces than others.
Although farmers believe that primates cause more damage to their crops than other
animals, studies elsewhere have shown that damage cause by primates is actually far
less than what the farmers believe it to be (Riley
2007 ; Siex and Struhsaker 1999 ) .
The large body size and group size of the primates magnify the actual extent of
damage caused (Nahallage and Huffman 2008 ) . Therefore, it is necessary to sys-
tematically quantify the damage caused by primates and to communicate these
fi ndings to farmers.
Peoples’ religious beliefs and cultural practices play an important role in
de ning the terms of primate–human interactions and re ect the past, present, and
potential future of their coexistence (Loudon et al. 2006 ) . In this light, the study of
ethnoprimatology is an important conservation tool for understanding the human
perspective on primates, which, when meshed with scienti c studies, offers a
holistic understanding of the current plight of primates. A better understanding of
the Sri Lankan perception of macaques and other primates, with whom they coin-
habit the island, will be helpful in the conservation and management of primates in
Sri Lanka.
Acknowledgments The information presented adhered to all national laws of Sri Lanka in which
the research was conducted. The authors thank HOPE Project, a core-to-core program sponsored
by the Japan Society for the Promotion of Science (JSPS), for travel funds to carry out the 2006,
2007, and 2009 eld visits. We are grateful to our friends and colleagues, Nadeera Kuruppu,
Tharindi Weerasingha, Nelum Yapa, Sisira Siriwardene, and Prof. Singha Kumara, for their assis-
tance and guidance in the eld and in Colombo. We give special thanks to Dr. Janet Nackoney for
producing Fig.
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... Non-human primates and humans maintain both positive and negative interactions. The positive interactions include deploying primates for economically beneficial activities such as harvesting coconuts, as can be seen in Thailand and also as performers to entertain humans (Nahallage & Huffman 2013;Nahallage 2019). In both instances, humans gain economic benefit by employing primates in various activities, which in turn creates a positive attitude towards them. ...
... In Sri Lanka, the three diurnal primate species are mainly involved in human-primate interactions: Toque Macaquea Macaca sinica, Purple-faced Leaf Langurs Semnopithecus vetulus and Gray Langurs Semnopithecus priam (Nahallage & Huffman 2013;Dittus et al. 2019). ...
... No conflicts have been reported with two resident nocturnal Loris spp., which have little interaction with humans. Macaques are sociable animals that interact frequently with humans and prefer to stay close to human settlements, while langurs prefer more natural habitats and foods (Nahallage & Huffman 2013;Dittus et al. 2019;Nahallage 2019). Purple-faced Leaf Langurs are strictly arboreal folivores and have the least interaction with humans in many places. ...
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Many humans coexist with non-human primates (NHP), and as human populations have increased so have the pressures on natural habitats. For example, deforestation results in habitat loss and food scarcity for NHPs. In response, NHPs sometimes enter human habitats in search of food, which can result in negative interactions between humans and NHPs. This study focused on human-NHP interactions in three Grama Niladhari divisions in Kegalle District, Sri Lanka. We used interviewer-administered structured questionnaires to collect data from 500 randomly selected informants. The majority stated that they could not obtain sufficient harvests from home gardens for their own consumption owing to crop damage and losses caused largely by NHPs and other wild animals. This has led many people to abandon home gardening. Toque Macaques caused the most damage to crops, followed by Wild Boars, porcupines, and Purple-faced Leaf Langurs. Damage was caused to coconuts, vegetables, bananas, and yams. NHPs also caused property damage, with Toque Macaques causing more damage than langurs. People commonly used firecrackers, catapults and air rifles, and wore wooden or plastic face masks, in attempts to control crop damage by NHPs, with little success. People are of the opinion that the NHPs should be relocated to other forested areas or sterilized to control their numbers. In conclusion, to address the issues pertaining to human-primate interactions in terms of conflict due to crop utilization of primates, an integrated management plan should be developed in cooperation with the relevant stakeholders.
... The gray langur, whose distribution is confined to the Dry Zone, has been assessed regarding HMC issues [Unanthanna and Wickramasinghe, 2010;Dittus et al., 2019]. Conservation and HMC focusing on the toque macaques have been reviewed by Dittus [1977aDittus [ , 2012a and by Nahallage and Huffman [2013]. Comprehensive comparisons of HMC issues involving all diurnal species of Sri Lankan primates at different geographical locations, but particularly in the central and southern regions of the island, have been considered by Nahallage et al. [2008], Cabral et al. [2018a and by Rudran et al. [2021]. ...
... Survey respondents had varied opinions of how best to deal with HMC. Most people liked or at least tolerated monkeys but would prefer to have them removed from their property to an area where monkeys are safe but not troublesome [Nijman and Nekaris, 2010;Nahallage and Huffman, 2013;Cabral et al., 2018a;Dittus et al., 2019]. Indeed, in attempts to reduce HMC in towns and popular visitation sites, "pest" macaques (and occasionally purple-faced langurs) have been trapped and transported away for release into state-protected areas, such as National Parks, or similar rural areas. ...
... Few people, however, wanted monkeys harmed or killed in keeping with cultural and religious values or simply in appreciation of monkeys and nature. A minority espoused the killing of monkeys as pests, for food, or medicinal purposes [Dela, 2004[Dela, , 2011Parker et al., 2008;Nijman and Nekaris, 2010;Nahallage and Huffman, 2013] and neither the macaque nor the gray langur are protected by law [Fauna and Flora Protection Ordinance, 2009]. Rudran et al. [2020] initiated a project of community conservation to promote the survival of Critically Endangered populations of the purple-faced langur with the aim of enhancing stakeholders' livelihoods and environmental awareness in exchange for their help to conserve the langur. ...
Many investigators of human-monkey competition (HMC) in Sri Lanka have revealed some common threads. Except at temple and protected sites, all monkeys were considered as household or agricultural pests wherever they shared space with humans. This included the widely distributed toque macaque (Macaca sinica), the grey langur (Semnopithecus priam thersites) of the Dry Zone, and the purple-faced langur (S. vetulus) of the southwestern and central rain forests where human densities and habitat fragmentation were greatest. People sharing space with monkeys resorted to various non-lethal methods to chase monkeys away from their properties and most preferred to have monkeys removed to protected areas; such translocations have been politically popular, though contrary to ecological principles. The main cause of HMC near primate habitats has been environmental conversion to agriculture, whereas in many towns the refuse generated in the wake of widespread growing tourism lured omnivorous macaques towards human habitation and stimulated macaque population growth. While most Sri Lankans share space with monkeys reluctantly, only a minority, flouting cultural restraints, want monkeys destroyed. Nonetheless, a major threat to primate conservation has been habitat loss and the killing of monkeys, especially in the densely populated southwestern area of the island where recent surveys showed that most macaques have been wiped out. Two subspecies, S. v. nestor of the rain forest lowlands and M. s. opisthomelas of the montane forests, are Critically Endangered. Sharing space with monkeys rests on public tolerance, understanding, and empathy with monkeys. Religious concepts venerating monkeys provide fertile ground for this. Our science-based educational documentaries (n > 35), among other efforts, also have contributed to these human sentiments in Sri Lanka and globally. The trends in HMC suggest that protected nature reserves for all wildlife are more secure for primate survival than ethnoprimatology by itself would be. Rudran [Folia Primatologica 2021, DOI: 10.1159/000517176] criticized our recent publication on HMC in Sri Lanka [Dittus et al., Folia Primatologica 2019, 90: 89-108]. We consider his comments as misconstruing efforts in primate conservation through denying the importance of traditional protected areas, overlooking our achievements in educating the public and reducing HMC, as well as misunderstanding the limits of marketing monkeys to tourists as a source of income to support conservation.
... Damage of crops by the rhesus macaques is also reported fromthe different parts of India and the other countries (Saraswat et al. 2015, Dela 2011, Nahallage and Huffman 2013. Now a days, macaques are acting aggressively towards the people they attack people to grab food, snatch hand bags and the people are also acting aggressive in return towards them (Dittus 2012). ...
Conflicts between humans and monkeys are recognized among major issues related to human-wildlife conflict. Today, human-monkey conflict has garnered the global attention as over the years it has become a serious concern. The present study was done in the human dominated landscape of Najibabad forest division (NFD). The data were collected from 2015 to 2018. The study aimed to assess the damage caused by monkeys on human-society and crop fields. The study showed that biting humans, destroying orchards, crops and stealing household things are the major damages caused by rhesus macaques (Macaca mullata). Destruction of habitats, over-population, and improper disposal of wastes are the main causes of human-monkey conflict and the monkeys also face threat in such situations. Hostile attitude of people and transportation of trapped monkey to release them in forest causes injuries or even death of monkeys.
... Seperti halnya di India dan Nepal, Macaca mulatta dianggap sebagai hama (Regmi et al. 2013;Chaturvedi and Mishra 2014;Reddy and Chander 2016). Meskipun di sisi lain, pada beberapa masyarakat spesies primata memiliki hubungan erat dan bernilai relijius tinggi (Nahallage & Huffman 2013). ...
The primate species of Bangka Belitung such as Mentilin are categorized as endangered species and are constantly under threat as a result of poaching and habitat destruction. Various conservation efforts have been carried out, one of which is by touching the aspect of public education. However, there has been no specific research on the community's response to primate conservation in Bangka Island. This study aimed to determine the level of public knowledge of primates typical of Bangka Belitung and to determine public perceptions of conservation efforts for primates typical of Bangka Belitung. The research method was carried out by surveying respondents from five different villages in Bangka Island, namely Zed Village, Kemuja, Payabenua, Petaling and Terak Village. The questionnaire consists of three main aspects, namely knowledge, perception and concern for the conservation of primates. In general, the response of the people of Bangka Island to the topic of primate conservation, both in terms of knowledge, perception were relatively low. However, as this was a preliminary study, it is important to explore the reasons behind the responses given in this survey. This will certainly be very useful to be taken into consideration for the primate conservation program that will be carried out by related parties.
... Their populations declined gradually over the past 40 years, where the total population size reduced in half, largely due to habitat loss and persecution of M. sinica by humans (Nahallage et al., 2008;Nahallage and Huffman, 2013). Therefore, according to the IUCN Red List of Threatened Species, M. s. sinica and M. s. aurifrons are categorized as "Endangered" (Dittus, 2020;Dittus and Nekaris, 2020) whereas M. s. opisthomelas is listed as "Critically Endangered" (Dittus and Gamage, 2020). ...
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Understanding variations in host-parasite relationships with urbanization is vital for both, public health management and conservation of endemic animals with high anthropogenic interactions. Toque macaques (Macaca sinica) are such endemic old-world monkeys in Sri Lanka. Three macaque sub species inhabit the main climatic zones of the island; M. s. sinica, M. s. aurifrons and M. s. opisthomelas inhabit the dry zone, wet zone, and montane regions of the island, respectively. This study aimed to examine parasite prevalence in this host in association with urbanization. A total of 180 fecal samples were collected from the three sub species of toque macaques inhabiting the main climatic zones (dry, wet, and montane) in Sri Lanka; 20 samples each were collected from urban, suburban, and wild populations representing each climatic zone. Twenty gastrointestinal (GI) parasite genera types i.e. five types of protozoan cysts, two types of trematode ova, four types of cestode ova, eight types of nematode ova, and a single type of acanthocephalan ova were identified. The overall prevalence of parasites was 62% (112/180) with the highest prevalence of Strongyloides infection. In all three sub species, toque macaque populations with proximity to human settlements, including urban and suburban populations, manifested a greater GI parasitic prevalence, mean ova/cyst counts and species richness, compared to their wild counterparts. Importantly, records of five parasite types in toques in Sri Lanka are reported for the first time, while Moniliformis type was reported as a first record in free ranging macaques, globally. This study clearly demonstrated that human contact and habitat modification may influence patterns of parasitic infections in macaques. As most of the parasite types identified manifest zoonotic potential, with public health implications, close associations of macaques may cause a threat to human well-being.
Nonhuman primate subfossils have been excavated from 20 prehistoric (37,000– 2,940 BP) cave sites across Sri Lanka. These nonhuman primates were sources of food for the inhabitants. One of these sites, the Sigiriya Potana cave situated in the intermediate climatic zone in north central Sri Lanka, belongs to a complex of 12 caves located in the Central Province at 70 m above sea level. An excavation was conducted between 1990 and 1991 by the Post Graduate Institute of Archaeology, Colombo. The cave deposits were dated at ca. 6000 BP and the calibrated age ranges from cumulative probability (one sigma) 3913–3727 BCE (UA 5685) and 3913–3709 BCE (UA5686) using carbon-14 dating techniques. These nonhuman primate subfossils were found along with two complete human skeletons. These nonhuman primates are suspected to be the equivalents of the three diurnal species currently present in the area; namely two langur species (Semnopithcus vetulus, Semnopithecus priam thersites) and a macaque (Macaca sinica). The total number of nonhuman primate subfossils found were 23 mandible fragments with teeth and 6 maxillary fragments with teeth. The postcranial material was badly fragmented, rendering impossible any meaningful analyses. Some of this material was burnt, and it is presumed that the human inhabitants consumed these nonhuman primates during their occupation of the cave. Odontometrical comparison of the dental morphology of these subfossil samples with those of the three extant nonhuman primate species confirmed that these are the same species. Consistent with other sites in Sri Lanka and elsewhere in South Asia during the Terminal Pleistocene/Holocene (~12,000 to 3000 BP) nonhuman primates are considered to have been an important food resource. Keywords:Nonhuman primate subfossils, Prehistoric cave site, ca. 6000 BP, Macaca sinica, Semnopithecus priam thersites, S. vetulus
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Human-monkey conflicts became a serious problem in Sri Lanka due to extensive deforestation during and after the country's 26-year ethnic war that ended in 2009. By 2015, these conflicts had affected most of the country's administrative districts, and the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC) was under severe public and political pressure to resolve the problem. To help the underfunded and understaffed DWC to address this issue, SPEARS Foundation, a local non-governmental organization, reviewed the complaint letters the agency had received from different districts. Next, it adopted an ethno-primatological approach to deal with the problem and conducted field surveys in several districts to interview residents and document their experiences with human-monkey conflicts. Those who lived in most of these districts followed Buddhism, which is steeped in the philosophy of compassion towards all living beings. In two districts, however, the interviewees were predominantly Hindus, whose religion also promoted reverence and respect for animals. Nevertheless, during the field surveys these people were dealing with problems of reclaiming the homes and croplands they had abandoned several years before, when they fled the war zone. Their hardships included clearing the jungle and defending their crops against monkeys and other wildlife that had invaded their abandoned properties during the war. While experiencing such threats to their survival, they seemed to have ignored their ancient religious doctrine of reverence and respect for living things. Ignoring these noble traditions of peaceful coexistence could have been avoided if a comprehensive plan was available to mitigate people's conflict with monkeys. This article presents such a plan, rooted in the country's cultural attributes and strengthened by the views expressed by those interviewed during the surveys.
We reviewed previous literature on primate crop feeding in Asia. We found 134 reports from 14 different countries and regions. More than half of the crop feeding cases involved macaques, followed by colobines, especially common langurs, and to a lesser extent by orangutans. No crop feeding by gibbons, lorises, or tarsiers has been reported. Most reports obtained information about crop feeding through interviews with locals and recorded the crops damaged and troop composition, while a few recorded the activity of the target primates and their population parameters. Crop feeding increased when the field was located near the forest, and when natural food availability decreased. Most farmers used non-lethal countermeasures, while some farmers killed the monkeys, and a few used electrical fences to protect crops. In study sites inhabited by multiple animal species, primates are often the worst crop feeders. Human perception and attitudes toward crop feeding primates were affected by income, residential area, religion, and history of crop feeding. Recent studies have created models based on previous data to clarify the potential risk of crop feeding and to predict the monkeys' ranging patterns. To create models for reducing crop damage and to design conservation strategies, collecting fundamental information is necessary.
We reviewed previous literature on primate crop feeding in Asia. We found 134 reports from 14 different countries and regions. More than half of the crop feeding cases involved macaques, followed by colobines, especially common langurs, and to a lesser extent by orangutans. No crop feeding by gibbons, lorises, or tarsiers has been reported. Most reports obtained information about crop feeding through interviews with locals and recorded the crops damaged and troop composition, while a few recorded the activity of the target primates and their population parameters. Crop feeding increased when the field was located near the forest, and when natural food availability decreased. Most farmers used non-lethal countermeasures, while some farmers killed the monkeys, and a few used electrical fences to protect crops. In study sites inhabited by multiple animal species, primates are often the worst crop feeders. Human perception and attitudes toward crop feeding primates were affected by income, residential area, religion, and history of crop feeding. Recent studies have created models based on previous data to clarify the potential risk of crop feeding and to predict the monkeys' ranging patterns. To create models for reducing crop damage and to design conservation strategies, collecting fundamental information is necessary.
As our closest evolutionary relatives, nonhuman primates are integral elements in our mythologies, diets and scientific paradigms, yet most species now face an uncertain future through exploitation for the pet and bushmeat trades as well as progressive habitat loss. New information about disease transmission, dietary and economic linkage, and the continuing international focus on conservation and primate research have created a surge of interest in primates, and focus on the diverse interaction of human and nonhuman primates has become an important component in primatological and ethnographic studies. By examining the diverse and fascinating range of relationships between humans and other primates, and how this plays a critical role in conservation practice and programs, Primates Face to Face disseminates the information gained from the anthropological study of nonhuman primates to the wider academic and non-academic world.
Seasonal Food Use Strategies of Semnopithecus vetulus nestor, at Panadura and Piliyandala, Sri Lanka Jinie D. S. Dela Abstract Field studies on Semnopithecus vetulus have shown high folivory and the ability to feed heavily on mature leaves, which are constantly available. In research spanning 19 mo, I examined the feeding behavior of 2 free-ranging groups of Semnopithecus vetulus nestor in home gardens and rubber monocultures at Panadura (PT1 group) and Piliyandala (R1 group), Sri Lanka. Overall, results showed that >80% of their diet comprised seasonal plant parts, largely fruits. Despite differences in spatial and temporal food availability in their respective habitats, seasonal plant parts dominated the diets of both groups except briefly (2 mo) for R1 when mature leaf petioles were the main plant food. Both groups increased their use of seasonal foods with heightened seasonal food availability, and increased dietary diversity with declining use of their highest-ranked specific item of diet: fruits of Artocarpus heterophyllus (jakfruit, Moraceae). PT1, which was in a species-rich environment, maintained a high intake of seasonal foods year round by exploiting a large number of species, mainly for fruits. In contrast, R1, in a habitat with significantly lower tree species richness, had a less diverse diet but maintained an equally high intake of seasonal foods, primarily fruits and seeds, by exploiting a few species heavily. My study also highlights the dietary flexibility of a single colobine species in space and time. Such information is useful for conservation planning because rapidly occurring changes are taking place in natural colobine habitats. Keywords: Artocarpus . feeding strategies . fruit use . seasonal food use . Semnopithecus vetulus nestor
Semi-evergreen forests cover the dry zone plains of Sri Lanka and constitute four-fifths of the island's vegetation. In a sample area of 3 km2, in the Polonnaruwa Sanctuary, 63 tree species were found; 46 were characteristic of other dry zone forests, and 17 occurred only under special edaphic and biotic conditions. As in other dry zone forests, Drypetes sepiara (Euphorbiaceae) prevailed with a relative density of 21.3 percent. The Shannon index of diversity was 4.23 bits per individual, of which 79.4 percent was attributable to evenness; most species had few individuals. Dominance was shared between species typical of the subcanopy and canopy. Measures of diversity and of dominance between species placed the semi-evergreen community in Polonnaruwa as a type intermediate between tropical rainforest and deciduous monsoon forest. Measures of diameters (DBH) and estimates of the height of trees indicated that all species with typically very large trees had few individuals that were distributed more or less evenly through all the size classes. Typically smaller species had large numerical representation. These facts are discussed in light of dominance relationships and regenerative patterns in the community, and are related to possible evolutionary trends. The distribution of most species was clumped, but that of certain rare species was random. Clumping at 2,500 m2 plot size usually meant clumping at smaller-sized plots. Clumping on a large scale reflected local differences in species dominance. Five shrub associations were distinguished by density and constitute dominant and co-dominant species. Differences were related to the amount of light penetrating through the tree canopy and to edaphic factors. Glycosmis pentaphylla (Rutaceae) was the dominant shrub species in the climax association which flourished under a fairly closed tree canopy and lacked an herbaceous layer.
The western purple-faced langur is a Sri Lankan endemic listed by the World Conservation Union (IUCN) as one of the 25 most endangered primates in the world. The extremely endangered status of Sri Lanka's endemic langur, found nowhere else on earth, is due to the fact that it is primarily a tree-dwelling, leaf-eating monkey, the range of which includes the most densely populated areas of the country. In these areas of high human density, forests have been intensively exploited for several decades, and deforestation has adversely affected its preferred habitat and sources of food. During a recent survey, the western purple-faced langur was found most often in small and widely scattered groups, indicating that it is declining and has been extirpated in a number of areas within its range. This tendency, if left unchecked, would ultimately lead to extinction throughout its range. Although it faces a perilous future, certain facts uncovered during the survey indicate that it is still possible to prevent this monkey from disappearing forever. For instance, the largest forests where it can be found today are around two reservoirs that supply water to the 1.2 million inhabitants of Colombo, Sri Lanka's capital. Because of their importance to people and relatively large size, these forests represent the last strongholds for maintaining viable populations over the long term. Furthermore, the Forest Department, responsible for these forests, has indicated interest in replanting its pine plantations with native species exploited by these langurs, and thereby increasing its preferred habitat. Another encouraging fact is that most people living within its current range are Buddhists who have a strong aversion to killing animals. The cultural sentiments of people inhabiting the range of the western purple-faced langur provide an opportunity to create awareness of this monkey's highly endangered status, and help promote its conservation. Prospects and recommendations for conserving the western purple-faced langur are also discussed in this paper.