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A Wily Macaque Sneaks a Snack

Morgan_heim_macaques_in_trash-3358

Khao Daeng, Thailand

Despite posted signs and repeated warnings, people are still feeding the monkeys. Tourists and locals dump piles of pineapples and other fruit along roads near Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, and the unnatural abundance regularly leads to aggressive foraging by crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis). Drop a bag of chips? Rippling plastic and a flash of fur will be all that remains.

One evening, after several macaques failed to pry the lid off of a supposedly wildlife-proof garbage can, one large male simply used his hand to swing open the door of the bin. In went his arm, then his head, and pretty soon only his rear stuck out. He emerged with a prize chunk of juicy pineapple. More macaques followed suit. Pretty soon chewing and smacking filled the air.

But this isn’t a sweet story. Deforestation and human interference are chipping away at monkey habitat—and when people and wildlife collide, conflicts often arise. In fact, some tourist-savvy monkeys are actually attacking people for food, and when such interactions get too intense, both wildlife and people lose.

Still, as I watched dozens of macaques sit on rooftops, tables and cars munching away, I couldn’t resist using my camera to steal the memory for myself. 

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