Beyond “Don’t Feed the Monkeys”

Researcher Meredith Shulte has made an interesting discovery in her 3rd year of work studying how the access to human resources is impacting the behavior of white-faced capuchin monkeys in the Manuel Antonio National Park area.

When asked to share some of her preliminary findings, Meredith had the following to say:

Essentially, based on 2 years worth of data from the Park, we have found that it isn’t simply the act of feeding the monkeys alone that is harmful anymore, it is also their access to food.  While feeding them is bad because it spreads disease, lets them develop a taste for human food and a familiarity with taking food from people, any access to food (left on picnic tables, open backpacks, etc.) is also harmful because the monkeys learn to steal.  Once they learn to like the food, and to steal the food, they become increasingly aggressive.

Because these behaviors are learned socially (from other monkeys), and the adult males are the primary thieves, the behavior can spread to other troops as male monkeys change troops at puberty and several times during their life, bringing their learned behavior of stealing human food with them, and potentially thus giving monkeys in their new troops the chance to learn it.

Additionally, access to human food has increased the amount of time monkeys are spending on the ground, and as many parasites have part of their life cycle in the soil, some of our preliminary data indicates that these monkeys that are always stealing food also have higher parasite levels. In addition, they are more susceptible to attacks from predators on the ground.

Aggressive Capuchin

We need to all work together to ensure that we are not only educating our fellow man to not feed to monkeys, but that we are picking up after ourselves as well.  When outside, please keep your food in a safe, covered area.


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: