Wildlife tourism can be detrimental to monkeys
July 15, 2007
The 19-year study, "Primate Tourism, Range Restriction and Infant Risk Among Macaca thibetana at Mt. Huangshan, China", adds to a growing body of work that suggests some forms of wildlife tourism are detrimental to primate populations, facilitating disease transmission, disrupting social behavior, and causing habitat destruction.
Studying Tibetan macaques in the Mt. Huangshan Scenic Area in China's Anhui province, researchers led by University at Buffalo anthropologist Carol Berman documented changes in infant mortality due to adult aggression in the presence of tourists. Tourists sometimes feed monkeys, triggered shifts in social structure and relationships between monkeys competing for handouts.
Macaques in Indonesia. Photos by Rhett A. Butler
"Overhabituation and hyperaggression often result in changes in the primates' habitat activity patterns and communicative behavior. This in turn can affect predator-prey relationships, intergroup relationships, diet or social development," she continued. "The strongest reason for caution involves disease transmission because close contact has been blamed for outbreaks of disease among monkeys, great apes and humans."
"In addition to infant death, disease transmission and the disruptive consequences on their activity, relationships and social development, primate tourism also may contribute to habitat destruction, particularly when tourism demands result in the housing and feeding of tourists within the normal primate habitat."
Similar results have been found in other parts of the world, including southeast Asia, East and West Africa, Madagascar, and Central America.
Berman says that it is possible to make wildlife tourism a positive for primate conservation, but that planning and management is required.
Macaque in Indonesia. Photo by Rhett A. Butler
Consuel Ionica of the University at Buffalo; Jinhua Li and Huabao Yin of Anhui University in China, and Hideshi Ogawa of Chukyo University in Japan also participated in the study.
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