Monkey Guards in Tangkoko

Human-wildlife interactions (HWI) are common and inevitable in the areas like the Tangkoko forest, where the local community lives right by the border of the nature reserve and heavily relies on its resources and tourism. In the first half of 2022, we received an increased number of notions of yaki foraging on crops, as well as visiting the villages adjacent to the protected area. Through consulting with the Forest Conservation Community Forum (FMKH) and the regional Natural Resources Conservation Agency (BKSDA), we realized that serious measures have to be put in place to be able to help the local people protect their source of income and assure the well-being and safety of the yaki.

Our locally active partners showed great cooperation, everyone helping to their best abilities; BKSDA as the governmental authority connecting the efforts and leading the meetings, as well as providing their own staff to help out with the deterrence of the macaques at the border, FMKH by sharing their opinions with us, advocating for understanding of the situation amongst the local communities and by providing members to be employed to implement the strategy, Macaca Nigra Project by sharing a wealth of their data on group home ranges and supporting another long-term monkey guard, and Wildlife Conservation Society with their data on the illegal activities within the protected area collected on their regular patrols.

The monkey guard Ara collecting data on group composition, macaque’s response to deterrence, time and location.

Supported by Mandai Nature Singapore, we have employed another monkey guard, Ara, as well as two reporters on the damage done by the macaques, Gesman and Djonny, all long-term FMKH members, notable figures in the community, with broad understanding of conservation issues and approaches and most importantly, with care for people and the monkeys. We were touched by how seriously they approached their new role with passion, consistency and regular reports and updates on the issue. Particularly Ara, a senior FMKH member, took the monkey guarding with a big smile on his face, tirelessly patrolling the borders regardless of the weather and always happy to share the amusing stories of what our playful yaki are up to. Gesman, Djonny and Ara report trips of mostly individuals visiting the areas out of the forest, assuming these are mostly young males with an occasional alpha male joining them. They occasionally exhibit mild aggressive behaviour, but are still afraid of people and return to their safe homes when deterred. Macaques are amongst the most adaptive primates and sometimes even the local people are impressed of how creative they are when trying to find treats in the village or plantations.

The efforts are ongoing, but through regular engagement and coordination, we are happy to confirm the general attitude towards the issue has improved and that the visits of yaki seem to be reducing. We are optimistic to achieve even more, especially as this has also proved as a great opportunity to further collaborate with our partners.

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