Friday, March 13, 2020 - 1:56pm
By:
Alan Flurry

New research from UGA Anthropology has found that the practice of feeding wildlife could be more detrimental to animals than previously thought.

In a paper published recently in Nature Scientific Reports, researchers found that feeding wildlife can disrupt the social lives of animal communities, which they discovered by observing and documenting the behavior of moor macaque monkeys along a wooded roadway on the island of Sulawesi in eastern Indonesia.

Monkeys gather along this heavily traveled roadway to accept food from passing motorists, and the researchers wanted to know what factors made some monkeys more inclined to interact with humans and how those interactions affected the group as a whole.

In particular, the researchers wanted to know whether social relationships influenced the amount of time some monkeys spent along the road and how traits like age and sex contributed to those decisions.

“It’s a bit like the old saying that goes, ‘If your friends jumped off a cliff, would you do it too?’” said Kristen Morrow, a doctoral student in anthropology at UGA and lead author of the study. “Yes, there is a food reward associated with humans, but this is risky behavior, and wild monkeys like these are generally very cautious around humans. So, we wanted to know how this behavior impacts their community.”

Great work with broad impact for how humans interact with the natural environment, which very much includes its fauna.

Image: A motocyclist drives through a group of macaque monkeys.