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Please don't feed the monkeys
You will do them more harm than good

People feed monkeys to have a closer look at these fascinating creatures. Some people think the monkeys are starving.

Monkeys are not starving
The monkeys in our wild places have lots of natural food available to them. They have been living in our forests long before people stayed on our island! By eating their natural fruits and food, monkeys also help our forest to regenerate and to ensure a balance in the forest.

Monkeys prefer the easy life
Monkeys, however, will prefer easy handouts from humans and will stop looking for food in the forest. They wait along the roads at the forest edges during "feeding time". They rush toward approaching cars and often get knocked down. Since mid-2002, 15 monkeys have been reported killed on the roads near our reserve boundaries. There may be more not reported.

Monkeys used to being fed
may become a nuisance

Monkeys will also approach humans, especially those carrying plastic bags, which they have learnt to associate with food. Monkeys often try to snatch plastic bags, or food held by small children. As humans try to protect themselves or their children by hitting out at the monkey, the monkey will in turn also retaliate. An ugly incident may develop. Complaints about aggressive monkeys often result. When "bad-mannered" monkeys become a serious nuisance, it may become necessary to trap them.
More about our monkeys
The monkeys commonly encountered in our wild places are Long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis). These animals are native to Singapore and their original habitat was mangroves. In fact, they are sometimes also called Crab-eating macaques.

Monkeys are social animals just like us. In the wild, they live in groups of 15-30 monkeys. Their social structure and behaviour are almost as complex as ours.

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Each monkey group (called a troop) is made up of a dominant male monkey, also known as the alpha male, and his harem of female monkeys. The troop may include a few other male monkeys are well.

Monkeys spend a lot of time grooming each other. To them, this is an important social activity for developing "friendships".

What are the
monkeys' natural food?

In one study, the monkeys were observed to eat 186 different types of plants. This is a large proportion of the estimated 300 species that were fruiting in the forest during the study period. They also eat young leaves and shoots, and flowers too.

Monkeys also eat animals such as small reptiles, spiders and insects.

What happens to trapped monkeys?
Trapped monkeys are put to sleep. They are not translocated to other parts of the Reserve as they are unlikely to be accepted into troops already existing in the forest. All alone, without a group, they are unlikely to survive.

Too many monkeys

Feeding also results in an unnaturally large monkey group size. A normal group of monkeys in the wild usually has 15-30 members. Groups that are fed by humans can be twice as big or more. More monkeys in a group mean more conflicts between monkeys.
EIGHTY monkeys are culled here each year because they become too aggressive

According to Mr Madhavan Kannan, head of the Agri-Food and Veterinary Authority's Centre for Animal Welfare and Control, the macaques are caught with the help of residents who live near the nature reserves.

These monkeys are trapped when they venture out of their natural habitat and cause a nuisance in the neighbourhood. They would either threaten people or become a nuisance by raiding homes and stealing food.

Explaining why they have to be culled, Mr Kannan said: 'These monkeys have come out of their troupe because they are a misfit among them. We are unable to determine as to their original habitat. To return these monkeys back to the forest will pose a hazard to them as the troupe does not accept them.'

He added that the Singapore Zoo does not accept any more monkeys as it is constrained by the lack of space.

from the Straits Times, 24 Jun 05

How can I save the monkeys?
Leave them alone.

Watch them from a distance and respect their natural diet and their natural role in our forests by not feeding them.

Be a responsible visitor to our wild places

  • Do not offer food to the monkeys.
  • Do not bring food and or eat in the Reserves.
  • Avoid carrying plastic bags openly in the Reserves
  • Make sure your children are not eating or holding food near monkeys.
  • Dispose your litter into the monkey-proof bins provided. Better still, take your litter out of the Reserves with you.
If you see people feeding the monkeys, explain gently why this hurts the monkeys. People who feed monkeys usually mean well and will usually eventually understand and stop feeding them.

Join volunteers who support NParks in outreach efforts to educate others about this issue. More details on the NParks website.


Media article on the consequences of feeding monkeys

Blog entries about feeding monkeys

Related articles on Singapore: exotic species, pets and our wild places impact, issues, efforts, discussions

Efforts for monkeys affected by feeding

  • Seeking the green light for animal sanctuaries: YES Plans for halfway house on Pulau Ubin for confiscated wildlife get in-principle OK by Chang Ai-Lien Science Correspondent
  • NO Expats' proposal to turn Pulau Tekukor into Monkey Island rejected and Monkeys that turn too aggressive culled By Jane Ng The Straits Times, 24 Jun 05
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