Monkeys use Field Scientists as Human Shields Against Predators

by Jeremy Hance

If you’re monkey—say a samango monkey in South Africa—probably the last thing you want is to be torn apart and eaten by a leopard or a caracal. In fact, you probably spend a lot of time and energy working to avoid such a grisly fate. Well, now there’s a simpler way: just stick close to human researchers.

A new study in Behavioral Ecology finds that samango monkeys (Cercopithecus albogularis erythrarchus), also known as Stairs’s white-collared monkey, feel a lot safer from land predators when they know humans are close by.

Studying samango monkeys in the Soutpansberg Mountains of South Africa, researchers were curious about how these monkeys, which have long been habituated to scientists, may change behavior depending on the presence or absence of humans.

Headed by Katarzyna Nowak with Durham University, the scientists placed peanut feeding buckets for the monkeys at various heights in trees. Arboreal browsers, samango monkeys eat up-and-down trees, but like many such monkeys they show a preference for eating higher up in trees rather than near the ground. Scientists believe this is because it helps the species avoid ground-based predators…

(read more: Monga Bay)

photos by MongaBay and Katarzyna Nowak

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