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Tourism and Infant-Directed Aggression in Tibetan Macaques (Macaca thibetana) at Mt. Huangshan, China

Sydney Self, Lori K. Sheeran, Megan D. Matheson, Jin-Hua Li, Oland D. Pelton, Sarah Harding, R. Steven Wagner
Anthrozoös 2013 v.26 no.3 pp. 435-444
Macaca, adults, aggression, females, infant mortality, infants, juveniles, males, monkeys, tourism, tourists, weaning, China
Previous studies of habituated Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana) at Mt. Huangshan, China demonstrated the negative impact that some tourism management strategies had on monkeys' annual infant mortality, but data on precise causes and perpetrators of infant injuries were not available. We worked at the same site and recorded rates of aggression that older monkeys directed toward group infants as a function of tourist numbers and proximity. We found a negative correlation between the number of people on the viewing platform and the frequency of monkeys' aggression toward the group's infants, but the effect is slight. We noted that infant-directed aggression (IDA) was more likely to occur in the provisioning zone where tourists bounded the monkeys on two sides, despite the fact that infants spent very little time in that location. The alpha and beta males engaged in more IDA than expected, while the other three adult males, adult females, and juveniles exhibited less IDA than expected. Males' IDA included biting, chasing, grabbing, and pushing. Adult females bit and grabbed mostly their own infants in the contexts of punishment and weaning. Juveniles' IDA was uncommon and consisted mostly of open-mouth threats. To minimize the severity and frequency of male-toinfant IDA, we recommend that sections of the tourist viewing platform be closed off so that tourists do not surround the monkeys, particularly when infants are near the viewing platforms and tourist numbers are few. The rule against tourists feeding monkeys should also be strictly enforced, so that altercations between the highest-ranked males and other group members, particularly infants, are less likely to occur.