Natures wonders: Monkeys steal, barter for food (Introduction)

by David Turell @, Thursday, May 25, 2017, 23:50 (847 days ago) @ David Turell

This appears to be a learned cultural activity in a small area in Bali:

https://www.newscientist.com/article/2132748-monkey-mafia-steal-your-stuff-then-sell-it...

"Long-tailed macaques living near an Indonesian temple have figured out how to run a ransom racket on visiting tourists.

"The monkeys grab valuables, such as glasses, hats, cameras or, in one case, a wad of cash from the ticket booth, then wait for temple staff to offer them food before dropping their ill-gotten gains and dashing off with the tasty prize.

" Although this behaviour has been reported anecdotally at Uluwatu Temple on the island of Bali for years, it had never been studied scientifically in the wild. So Fany Brotcorne, a primatologist at the University of Liège in Belgium, and her colleagues set out to discover how and why it has spread through the monkey population.


“'It’s a unique behaviour. The Uluwatu Temple is the only place in Bali where it’s found,” she says, which suggests it is a learned behaviour rather than an innate ability.

"Brotcorne wanted to determine whether it was indeed cultural, which could help us better understand the monkey’s cognitive abilities, and even human evolution.

"She spent four months observing four different groups of monkeys that live near the temple. The two groups that spent the most time around tourists had the highest rates of robbing and bartering, supporting the idea that they were learning the behaviour by watching each other. Groups with more young males, who are more prone to risky behaviour, also had higher rates than other groups.

"Although this study is based on only a small sample, Brotcorne believes her team has found the first preliminary evidence that the behaviour is a cultural one, transmitted across generations by monkeys learning from each other.

"In the years since these observations, she has gathered more evidence: the members of a fifth group of macaques that moved into the area around the temple have also started to learn that they can barter stolen goods for snacks.

"Serge Wich, a primatologist at Liverpool John Moores University in the UK, says Brotcorne’s work provides “a novel and quite spectacular example of flexibility in primate behaviour in response to environmental changes'”.

Comment: Certainly looks like a learned behaviour in which people offered food to get back a stolen item. The new troop learning the trick supports that. Monkey see, Monkey do.


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