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Tourist impact on Tibetan macaques

Matheson, Megan D., Sheeran, Lori K., Li, Jin-Hua, Wagner, R. Steven
Anthrozoös 2006 v.19 no.2 pp. 158-168
Macaca, adults, aggression, anthropogenic activities, ecotourism, habituation, human behavior, human-animal relations, humans, juveniles, monkeys, tourists, wildlife
Ecotourism is a growing sector of the tourism industry, but few studies to date have quantified its impacts on local people, tourists and wildlife. We present a preliminary study on threat and affiliative behaviors of two groups of free-ranging Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana) as a function of habituation and tourist presence. Data indicate that the less habituated group spent less time within sight of tourists compared with the more habituated group. The more habituated group engaged in frequent affiliative behaviors while within sight of humans, whereas affiliative behavior was not observed in the less habituated group. The general pattern of threats consisted of adults primarily threatening juveniles and juveniles primarily threatening humans, possibly due to redirection. No clear pattern of threats as a function of tourist density emerged. Tourist feeding, although discouraged, potentially provided a catalyst for some aggression. Future research will focus on clarifying which human behaviors evoke specific threat responses from monkeys. These data will be used to refine the existing management plan for this monkey population.