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The Jane Goodall Institute of Singapore Monkey Walks

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The Bukit Timah Nature Reserve is the largest rainforest left in Singapore and is a refuge for more than 500 species of animals. To educate the public about one of the park’s most commonly-sighted but peskiest creatures – the long-tailed macaque – the Jane Goodall Institute of Singapore leads a free “Monkey Walk” once a month.

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Due to the fact that natural predators like tigers are long extinct in Singapore, the local monkey population has an easy life and numbers are rising. It’s estimated that Singapore is home to 2,000 macaques and they can also be spotted in parks and recreational areas like Pulau Ubin, Southern Ridges, Pasir Ris, Sungei Buloh Wetland and even occasionally on Sentosa.

Macaques are intelligent and social animals, and their rising numbers means that human-monkey interactions are becoming more common in Singapore. Unfortunately, they may end badly when people try to interact with these wild animals — like a woman who needed stitches after being bitten by a macaque on a family outing to MacRitchie Reservoir.

To educate the public about macaques and help combat their bad reputation, the Jane Goodall Institute offers a “Monkey Walk” on the second Saturday of each month. The walk is led by a primatologist (a person who studies monkeys) and is fun, free and educational.

A long-tailed macaque showing off its namesake feature.

A long-tailed macaque showing off its namesake feature.

The group meets around 17:00 at the Bukit Timah Visitor’s Centre and begins with a brief classroom session with an introduction about Singapore’s long-tailed macaques and a chance to ask any questions. Before heading out to find the monkeys, participants are given some tips on how to safely observe them, like not to make eye contact (a sign of aggression), to stay a few metres away (especially if they have babies) and to not carry any plastic bags. Not too surprisingly, the main reason that monkeys “attack” people is because they associate them with food, and Singapore’s macaques have learned that plastic bags usually contain delicious hawker food. Even though there is a S$500 fine for feeding the monkeys, people continue to do it.

The guide knows the best place to look for monkeys, and this varies a bit depending on the season and the time of day. Around dusk the monkeys are usually on the outskirts of the park as they move from their feeding grounds to their sleeping trees, and it took us just minutes to spot a group of long-tailed macaques grooming each other on the ground and playing in the trees. The macaques can often be spotted relaxing on the rooftops of the luxurious houses and condos along the outskirts of Bukit Timah Nature Reserve, and our guide mentioned that the monkeys have even been known to use the swimming pools.

“Monkey Walks” take place around 17:00 on the second Saturday of each month. Scheduled dates for 2015 are January 10th, February 14th, March 14th, April 11th, May 9th, June 13th, July 11th, August 8th, September 12th, October 10th, November 14th and December 12th. Space is limited, so email to register.

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