University of Washington researchers working with Indonesian colleagues say the findings from the longest ongoing survey of Sulawesi black macaques provides the first evidence the monkeys may be in better shape following years of decline going back to the 1970s.
"Fifteen years ago it looked like this macaque population would continue its decline and eventually disappear," Randall Kyes, UW research professor of psychology, said in a university release Wednesday.
The study "doesn't mean that everything is fine now and that we no longer need to worry about the fate of these animals, but it is good news compared with what we've seen over the past 30-plus years in this reserve," he said.
Kyes and his Indonesian colleagues have conducted conservation-related studies since 1997 of the black macaques at the Tangkoko Nature Reserve in North Sulawesi, Indonesia, an area known for its biodiversity that attracts thousands of tourists each year.
"We've found that the progressive decline has slowed," Kyes said. "Somewhere over the last 10 years the trend has started to turn.
"We're seeing the population in the balance now, but without the sustained efforts by local and international groups working in the reserve and the support and involvement of the local people, the macaques will likely face further decline," he said.
In North Sulawesi culture, the researchers said, black macaques are considered a food for special occasions, similar to the way turkeys are consumed on Thanksgiving in the United States and Canada.
An outreach education effort aimed at children who live near the Tangkoko Nature Reserve may be helping to decrease illegal hunting and trapping of the animals, they said.
"We don't chastise them for eating monkeys, but we do explain that there might not be many left in the future," Kyes said. "We encourage them to ask their parents if there's something else they can eat."