Thai university’s cutting-edge conservation effort, help monkeys preserve natural “Behavior”

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Red Orbit reports; While some scientists are focused on the conservation of species, researchers from the Nanyang Technological University in Thailand have been focused on conserving species’ behavior, particularly those of the Burmese long-tailed macaque. According to new research from NTU, published in Oryx — The International Journal of Conservation, the macaque’s use of stone tools is being threatened by human activity. “Generally, when we think of conservation, we think of species preservation, but I think we must also be concerned with the preservation of rare and interesting behavior produced by animals’ cultures as well,” said Michael D. Gumert, a primate behavior expert at NTU. “Many animal species have unique traditions, and these traditions are fragile to disturbance. They require good conservation management of the habitats that foster these traditions.” Burmese long-tailed macaques are a less prolific relative of the long-tailed macaques common to Southeast Asia. The Burmese macaques are found only in Myanmar and bordering areas of Thailand, and in some of these locations along the coast these monkeys use stone tools to crack hard-shelled prey, such as oysters, sea snails, and crabs. On Piak Nam Yai Island, the research team found that human activity is altering the ecosystem and affecting the macaque’s tool use. These activities include harvesting of clams and oysters for food, the proliferation of rubber farms and the use of domestic dogs to protect the farms. Because these macaques are forced to become more vigilant and seeing less of a food supply, they are spending less time and energy learning tool-using patterns from their elders. “Traditions need safety and stability to properly develop, otherwise, the coasts just become a danger area that macaques must learn to avoid, rather than a stable learning ground for developing tool-use,” Gumert said. (Source)

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