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Official magazine of the Biological Sciences Society
National University of Singapore
The Mudskipper, Sep 91
Monkey Business
Part 1 | Part 2

by N. Sivasothi
Drawings by Kelvinski Humchnek & Gaufridus

innocent victim
alright gang! this is it!

The Reign of Terror
The new honours class lodged at the Kuala Selangor Nature Park during their honours field trip in June. Within a day, the primate hierarchy was established. Most of the class stood at the top of the rung, then came the macaques, followed by less aggressive members of the field trip and then finally, the Silvered-Leaf Monkeys.

macaque raiding dustbin Those among us who were intimidated were epitomised by the sole lad who stayed alone at the park one afternoon. He opened his door only to find a macaque raiding his dustbin. Terrified, he slammed his door shut (presumably before the macaque had him for lunch) and kept to his room to avoid confrontation.

intimidated by monkey on the way back from the shower On another occasion, three girls returning from the shower discovered that their futile efforts at scaring the monkey seemed only to invite its attentions and they backed off as the unimpressed animal glowered at them with raised eyebrows.

raided dustbins upon return To establish its disdain for the residents of the park, the macaques raided the dustbins with monotonous regularity. The sight of overturned dustbins and its rudely scattered contents greeted us each say as we returned from our field trips. By the third day, this gathered little or no comment from the resigned victims.

cat in cahoots with monkey We were betrayed by the cat that we had always treated with warmth and affection, though. It displayed its solidarity with its fellow non-human one evening by sitting companionably next to the monkey while it scattered the contents of a dustbin.

The Silvered-leaf monkeys were docile compared to the macaques but even they occasionally did upset some of us; though quite unintentionally. The chap who barricaded himself against the marauding macaque was frightened out of what wit he had left (which explains his present condition) when these monkeys walked all over the roof of his hut. The sound was amplified through the roof which he mistook for a plot by the macaques to tear the hut down! The other victims of the Silvered-leaf monkeys were observing a group of them at Bt. Melawati when droplets of water landed amongst them. It took them a few seconds before they realised that the monkey directly above them was urinating. Shaking off their drowsiness, they scampered for shelter.

In all honesty I must add that the macaques were not the only source of damage in the park. A group of excited honours students managed to destroy a bed between them. We were worried until told by the park authorities that it was a frequent phenomena. This I could believe for as I tried to leave my hut quietly at 5 or 6 am each morning for a walk, my bed would announce this to the state of Selangor.

Back to Basics
When I stayed at Bako National Park in Sarawak last year, macaques also figured prominently in the lives of the residents at the reserve. We had to make an effort to lock all the doors for the monkeys were always watching us! The moment someone makes a mistake, the nearest macaque races to the door when your back is turned, opens it and conducts a lightning search for food before racing away. Such incidents were common and are usually announced by the screams of outraged victims. The other residents would then be treated to a sight of flailing fists and a string of swear words which varies with nationality.

monkeying monkeys at kuala selangorWhen people first arrive at the park, many are quite delighted to see the monkeys hanging around on the trees next to their bunks - 'close to nature' and all that sort of thing. This appreciative view is rather quickly turned to one of murderous intent. You see, people bring their own food to Bako and the new arrivals are not aware of the food-pinching habits of the monkeys. The monkeys on their part are fully aware that new visitors are easy meat and wait expectantly when these people walk up to their chalets. As they put their things down and turn to fit their key into the door, the monkeys gleefully strike. When we arrived, we were startled by the sight of a woman who was cursing and swearing at a pair of monkeys which had succeeded in stealing the biscuits she had brought all the way from England. When she turned around to greet us, however, she was polite and dignified. The abrupt change in personality was not reassuring and we mumbled greetings as we entered our room, darting sidelong glances at her. Later, we got used to it. In fact when one of my pals suddenly scrambled over the balcony to pursue a macaque one evening, few of us were startled.

Continue to Part 2

© N Sivasothi, 2001