International Journal of Primatology

, Volume 39, Issue 5, pp 817–830 | Cite as

The Hand That Feeds the Monkey: Mutual Influence of Humans and Rhesus Macaques (Macaca mulatta) in the Context of Provisioning

  • Asmita SenguptaEmail author
  • Sindhu Radhakrishna


Historically, humans and other primates (primates henceforth) have coexisted across cultures and contexts, and many primate populations use anthropogenic food sources as their main or supplementary food. While primates may actively forage for such food, they are also directly provisioned by humans in many regions. Ethnoprimatology views humans and primates as cohabitants of integrated socioecological spaces who mutually influence each other’s ecologies and social lives. We contextualized provisioning of primates by humans within an ethnoprimatological framework and examined if the availability of anthropogenic food affected primate diets or the amount of time primates spent in anthropogenic habitats and whether primates influenced the human act of provisioning. To this end, we used scan sampling on a group of rhesus macaques across a year, and conducted interviews with 86 people who paused at a nearby tea shop for refreshments. We found that the macaques’ consumption of natural resources and dietary diversity decreased, and they spent more time in human-modified habitats when provisioned food was available. We also found that particular behaviors of the provisioned macaques stimulated provisioning by humans. Our findings show that provisioning influences macaque feeding ecology and habitat use, and that the behavior of the macaques themselves drives people to provide them with food subsidies, illustrating a complex web of interactions between the sympatric species.


Ethnoprimatology Feeding ecology Habitat use Provisioning Rhesus macaque 



The authors thank the West Bengal Forest Department for granting research permits. They also thank Erin P. Riley for taking the initiative in organizing the symposium entitled “Expanded Ecologies: Theoretical and Methodological Advancements in the Study of the Human-Primate Interface,” at the Joint Meeting of the International Primatological Society and the American Society of Primatology, Chicago, 2016, where a part of this work was presented. Suresh Roy and Netra Prasad Sharma provided invaluable assistance during field data collection. The study was funded by the Science and Engineering Research Board, Department of Science and Technology, Government of India (contract grant number: SB/SO/AS-128/2012) awarded to S. Radhakrishna. The authors also thank Joanna M. Setchell and the four anonymous reviewers for their extremely insightful comments that helped improve the manuscript.

Supplementary material

10764_2018_14_MOESM1_ESM.docx (23 kb)
ESM 1 (DOCX 23 kb)


  1. Altmann, J. (1974). Observational study of behavior: Sampling methods. Behaviour, 49, 227–267.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Altmann, J., & Muruthi, P. (1988). Differences in daily life between semiprovisioned and wild feeding baboons. American Journal of Primatology, 15, 213–221.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Asquith, P. J. (1989). Provisioning and the study of free-ranging primates: History, effects, and prospects. American Journal of Physical Anthropology, 32, 129–158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Barirega, A., Buyinza, M., Kansiime, F., & Basuta-Isabirye, G. (2010). The effects of crop raiding on household food security in the Albertine Rift: A case study of Queen Elizabeth National Park, Western Uganda. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 15, 45–54.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Becker, D. J., & Hall, R. J. (2014). Too much of a good thing: Resource provisioning alters infectious disease dynamics in wildlife. Biology Letters, 10, 20140309.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Berman, C. M., & Li, J.-H. (2002). Impact of translocation, provisioning and range restriction on a group of Macaca thibetana. International Journal of Primatology, 23, 283–397.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  7. Bracebridge, C. E., Davenport, T. R., & Marsden, S. J. (2012). The impact of forest disturbance on the seasonal foraging ecology of a Critically Endangered African primate. Biotropica, 44, 560–568.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Brotcorne, F., Giraud, G., Gunst, N., Fuentes, A., Wandia, I.N., Beudels-Jamar, R.C., Poncin, P., Huynen, M.C., & Leca, J.B. (2017). Intergroup variation in robbing and bartering by long-tailed macaques at Uluwatu Temple (Bali, Indonesia). Primates 58:505-516.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Burton, F. D. (2002). Monkey king in China: Basis for a conservation policy? In A. Fuentes & L. D. Wolfe (Eds.), Primates face to face (pp. 137–162). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Chhangani, A. K. (2004). Killing of Hanuman Langur in road accidents in Knumbhalgarh Wildlife Sanctuary, Rajasthan, India. Primate Report, 69, 49–57.Google Scholar
  11. El Alami, A., Lavieren, E. V., Rachida, A., & Chait, A. (2012). Differences in activity budgets and diet between semiprovisioned and wild-feeding groups of the Endangered Barbary macaque (Macaca sylvanus) in the Central High Atlas Mountains, Morocco. American Journal of Primatology, 74, 210–216.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Engel, G. A., Jones-Engel, L., Schillaci, M. A., Suaryana, K. G., Putra, A., et al (2002). Human exposure to herpesvirus B-seropositive macaques, Bali, Indonesia. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 8, 789–795.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  13. Fuentes, A. (2006). Human–nonhuman primate interconnections and their relevance to anthropology. Ecological and Environmental Anthropology, 2, 1–11.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Fuentes, A. (2012). Ethnoprimatology and the anthropology of the human–primate interface. Annual Review of Anthropology, 41, 101–117.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Fuentes, A., & Gamerl, S. (2005). Disproportionate participation by age/sex classes in aggressive interactions between long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis) and human tourists at Padangtegal Macaque Forest, Bali, Indonesia. American Journal of Primatology, 66, 197–204.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  16. Fuentes, A., & Hockings, K. J. (2010). The ethnoprimatological approach in primatology. American Journal of Primatology, 72, 841–847.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  17. Fuentes, A., Kalchik, S., Gettler, L., Kwiatt, A., Konecki, M., & Jones-Engel, L. (2008). Characterizing human–macaque interactions in Singapore. American Journal of Primatology, 70, 879–883.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Fuentes, A., Shaw, E., & Cortes, J. (2007). Qualitative assessment of macaque tourist sites in Padangtegal, Bali, Indonesia, and the Upper Rock Nature Reserve, Gibraltar. International Journal of Primatology, 28, 1143–1158.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Hadi, I., Suryobroto, B., & Perwitasari-farajallah, D. Y. A. H. (2007). Food preference of semi-provisioned macaques based on feeding duration and foraging party size. HAYATI Journal of Biosciences, 14, 13–17.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Hockings, K. J., & McLennan, M. R. (2012). From forest to farm: Systematic review of cultivar feeding by chimpanzees–management implications for wildlife in anthropogenic landscapes. PLoS One, 7, e33391.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Hockings, K. J., Yamakoshi, G., Kabasawa, A., & Matsuzawa, T. (2010). Attacks on local persons by chimpanzees in Bossou, Republic of Guinea: Long-term perspectives. American Journal of Primatology, 72, 887–896.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Hsu, M. J., Kao, C. C., & Agoramoorthy, G. (2009). Interactions between visitors and Formosan macaques (Macaca cyclopis) at Shou-Shan Nature Park, Taiwan. American Journal of Primatology, 71, 214–222.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Huffman, M. A. (1984). Plant foods and foraging behavior of the Arashiyama Japanese macaques (in Japanese). In N. Asaba (Ed.), Arashiyama Japanese monkeys: Arashiyama Natural History Research Station report (Vol. 3, pp. 55–65). Osaka: Osaka Seihan Printers.Google Scholar
  24. Humle, T., & Hill, C. M. (2016). People–primate interactions: Implications for primate conservation. In S. A. Wich & A. J. Marshall (Eds.), An introduction to primate conservation. Oxford: Oxford University Press.Google Scholar
  25. Jaman, M. F., & Huffman, M. A. (2013). The effect of urban and rural habitats and resource type on activity budgets of commensal rhesus macaques (Macaca mulatta) in Bangladesh. Primates, 54, 49–59.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  26. Jones-Engel, L., Engel, G. A., Schillaci, M. A., Rompis, A., Putra, A., et al (2005). Primate-to-human retroviral transmission in Asia. Emerging Infectious Diseases, 11, 1028–1035.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  27. Kamal, K. B., Boug, A., & Brain, P. F. (1997). Effects of food provisioning on the behaviour of commensal Hamadryas baboons, Papio hamadryas, at Al Hada mountain in Western Saudi Arabia. Zoology in the Middle East, 14, 11–22.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Knight, J. (1999). Monkeys of the move: The natural symbolism of people–macaque conflict in Japan. The Journal of Asian Studies, 58, 622–647.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Knight, J. (2005). Feeding Mr Monkey: Cross-species food ‘exchange’ in Japanese monkey parks. In J. Knight (Ed.), Animals in person: Cultural perspectives on human–animal intimacy (pp. 231–253). Oxford: Berg.Google Scholar
  30. Knight, J. (2009). Making wildlife viewable: Habituation and attraction. Society and Animals, 17, 167–184.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Knight, J. (2010). The ready-to-view wild monkey: The convenience principle in Japanese wildlife tourism. Annals of Tourism Research, 37, 744–762.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  32. Koganezawa, M., & Imaki, H. (1999). The effects of food sources on Japanese monkey home range size and location, and population dynamics. Primates, 40, 177–185.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  33. Lee, P. C., & Priston, N. E. C. (2005). Human attitudes to primates: Perceptions of pests, conflict and consequences for conservation. In J. D. Paterson (Ed.), Commensalism and conflict: The primate–human interface. Winniipeg: Hignell Printing.Google Scholar
  34. Maibeche, Y., Moali, A., Yahi, N., & Menard, N. (2015). Is diet flexibility an adaptive life trait for relictual and peri-urban populations of the endangered primate Macaca sylvanus? PLoS One, 10, e0118596.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. McCarthy, M. S., Matheson, M. D., Lester, J. D., Sheeran, L. K., Li, J., & Wagner, S. R. (2009). Sequences of Tibetan macaque (Macaca thibetana) and tourist behaviors at Mt. Huangshan, China. Primate Conservation, 24, 145–151.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. McGuinness, S., & Taylor, D. (2014). Farmers’ perceptions and actions to decrease crop raiding by forest-dwelling primates around a Rwandan forest fragment. Human Dimensions of Wildlife, 19, 179–190.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  37. McKinney, T. (2010). The effects of provisioning and crop-raiding on the diet and foraging activities of human-commensal white-faced capuchins (Cebus capucinus). American Journal of Primatology, 71, 1–10.Google Scholar
  38. McKinney, T. (2014). Species-specific responses to tourist interactions by white-faced capuchins (Cebus imitator) and mantled howlers (Alouatta palliata) in a Costa Rican wildlife refuge. International Journal of Primatology, 35, 573–589.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  39. Medhi, R., Chetry, D., Choudhury, B., & Bhattacharjee, P. C. (2007). Status and diversity of temple primates in northeast India. Primate Conservation, 22, 135–138.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Mwakatobe, A., Nyahongo, J., Ntalwila, J., & Roskaft, E. (2014). The impact of crop raiding by wild animals in communities surrounding the Serengeti National Park, Tanzania. International Journal of Biodiversity and Conservation, 6, 637–646.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. O’Leary, H., & Fa, J. E. (1993). Effects of tourists on Barbary macaques at Gibraltar. Folia Primatologia, 61, 77–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Oro, D., Genovart, M., Tavecchia, G., Fowler, M. S., & Martınez-Abrain, A. (2013). Ecological and evolutionary implications of food subsidies from humans. Ecology Letters, 16, 1501–1514.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Pragatheesh, A. (2011). Effect of human feeding on the road mortality of Rhesus Macaques on National Highway-7 routed along Pench Tiger Reserve, Madhya Pradesh, India. Journal of Threatened Taxa, 3, 1656–1662.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  44. R Core Team (2015). R: A language and environment for statistical computing. R Foundation for Statistical Computing, Vienna, Austria.
  45. Rajpurohit, L. S., & Chhangani, A. K. (1997). Males’ number decreasing in langurs (Presbytis entellus) around Jodhpur. Abstracts of 1st Goettinger Freilandtage on Primate Socioecology: Causes and consequences of variation in the members of males per group, German Primate Centre (DPZ), Gottingen (Germany). Primate Report, 48, –30.Google Scholar
  46. Ram, S., Venkatachalam, S., & Sinha, A. (2003). Changing social strategies of wild female bonnet macaques during natural foraging and on provisioning. Current Science, 84, 780–790.Google Scholar
  47. Riley, E. P. (2007). The human–macaque interface: Conservation implications of current and future overlap and conflict in Lore Lindu National park, Sulawesi, Indonesia. American Anthropology, 109, 473–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  48. Riley, E. P., Fuentes, A., & Dore, K. M. (2017). Introduction: Doing ethnoprimatology in the Anthropocene. In K. M. Dore, E. P. Riley, & A. Fuentes (Eds.), Ethnoprimatology: A practical guide to research at the human–nonhuman primate interface. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.Google Scholar
  49. Robb, G. N., McDonald, R. A., Chamberlain, D. E., & Bearhop, S. (2008). Food for thought: Supplementary feeding as a driver of ecological change in avian populations. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 6, 476–484.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  50. Ruesto, L. A. (2007). Investigation of possible impacts of tourist density, decibel levels, and behavior on threats in Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana). Master’s thesis, Central Washington University.Google Scholar
  51. Russo, S. E., Campbell, C. J., Dew, J. L., Stevenson, P. R., & Suarez, S. A. (2005). A multi-forest comparison of dietary preferences and seed dispersal by Ateles spp. International Journal of Primatology, 26, 1017–1037.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Saj, T., Sicotte, P., & Paterson, J. D. (1999). Influence of human food consumption on the time budget of vervets. International Journal of Primatology, 20, 977–994.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Savage, A., Guillen, R., Lamilla, I., & Soto, L. (2010). Developing an effective conservation program for cottontop tamarins (Saguinus oedipus) in Colombia that incorporates strategies addressing integrated conservation and community development initiatives. American Journal of Primatology, 72, 379–390.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Sengupta, A., McConkey, K. R., & Radhakrishna, S. (2015). Primates, provisioning and plants: Impacts of human cultural behaviours on primate ecological functions. PLoS One, 10, e0140961.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Sengupta, A., & Radhakrishna, S. (2016). Influence of fruit availability on fruit consumption in a generalist primate, the rhesus macaque Macaca mulatta. International Journal of Primatology, 37, 703–717.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Sha, J. C. M., & Hanya, G. (2013). Diet, activity, habitat use, and ranging of two neighboring groups of food-enhanced long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis). American Journal of Primatology, 75, 581–592.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Shannon, C. E., & Weaver, W. (1949). The mathematical theory of communication. Urbana: University of Illinois Press.Google Scholar
  58. Singh, M., Kumara, H. N., Anand Kumar, M., Sharma, A. K., & DeFalco, K. (2000). Status and conservation of lion-tailed macaque and other arboreal mammals in tropical rainforests of Sringeri Forest Range, Western Ghats, Karnataka, India. Primate Report, 58, 5–16.Google Scholar
  59. Sinha, A., Mukhopadhyay, K., Datta-Roy, A., & Ram, S. (2005). Ecology proposes, behaviour disposes: Ecological variability in social organization and male behavioural strategies among wild bonnet macaques. Current Science, 89, 1166–1179.Google Scholar
  60. Sivakumar, S., Varghese, J., & Prakash, V. (2006). Abundance of birds in different habitats in Buxa Tiger Reserve, West Bengal, India. Forktail, 22, 128–133.Google Scholar
  61. Stevenson, P. R., & Link, A. (2010). Fruit preferences of Ateles belzebuth in Tinigua Park, Northwestern Amazonia. International Journal of Primatology, 31, 393–407.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  62. Sukumar, R., Venkataraman, A., Cheeran, J. V., & Mujumdar, P. P. (2003). Study of elephants in Buxa Tiger Reserve and adjoining areas in Northern West Bengal and preparation of conservation action plan. Report submitted to West Bengal Forest Department under India Eco-development Project. Bangalore: Centre for Ecological Sciences, Indian Institute of Science.Google Scholar
  63. Warren, Y., Higham, J. P., Maclarnon, A. M., & Ross, C. (2011). Crop-raiding and commensalism in olive baboons: The costs and benefits of living with humans. In V. Sommer & C. Ross (Eds.), Primates of Gashaka: Socioecology and conservation in Nigeria's biodiversity hotspot, Developments in Primatology: Progress and Prospects (pp. 307–332). New York: Springer Science+Business Media.Google Scholar
  64. Wheatley, B. P., & Harya Putra, D. K. (1994). Biting the hand that feeds you: Monkeys and tourists in Balinese monkey forests. Tropical Biodiversity, 2, 317–327.Google Scholar
  65. Wolfe, L. D. (2002). Rhesus macaques: A comparative study of two sites, Jaipur, India, and Silver Springs, Florida. In A. Fuentes & L. D. Wolfe (Eds.), Primates face to face: Conservation implications of human–nonhuman primate interconnections (pp. 310–330). Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  66. Zar, J. H. (2010). Biostatistical analysis (4th ed.). Upper Saddle River: Pearson Prentice-Hall.Google Scholar
  67. Zhao, Q. K. (1999). Responses to seasonal changes in nutrient quality and patchiness of food in a multigroup community of Tibetan macaques at Mt. Emei. International Journal of Primatology, 20, 511–524.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Zhao, Q. K. (2005). Tibetan macaques, visitors, and local people at Mt. Emei: Problems and countermeasures. In J. D. Paterson & J. Wallis (Eds.), Commensalism and conflict: The human–primate interface (pp. 376–399). Norman: American Society of Primatologists.Google Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Ashoka Trust for Research in Ecology and the EnvironmentBangaloreIndia
  2. 2.National Centre for Biological SciencesTata Institute of Fundamental ResearchBangaloreIndia
  3. 3.School of Natural Sciences and Engineering, National Institute of Advanced StudiesIndian Institute of Science CampusBangaloreIndia

Personalised recommendations