Kate and I were very excited to find out that Angkor Wat had surprise monkeys lurking in it. I somehow forgot that monkeys do whatever they want and can be found outside of designated monkey habitats. Seeing monkeys when I’m supposed to be learning about history and culture, is like ordering a salad and then finding out it has bacon bits in it (unless you’re vegetarian, in which case this is a horrible example because in this analogy, monkeys are supposed to be a good surprise).
The monkeys we saw at Angkor Wat were macaques (Genus). I had to use Wikipedia for any further classification, because I didn’t know macaques came in so many flavors. According to Wikipedia these were most likely crab-eating macaques, also known as long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis). I like to think that if there were any crabs crawlin around, I might have guessed this. Here is the breakdown (as much to help me as to help you because taxonomy is hard).
Kingdom: Animalia (obviously)
Phylum: Chordata (forgot phylum was a category)
Class: Mammalia (yes)
Order: Primates (yup)
Family: Cercopithecidae (learned this at some point for sure)
Genus: Macaca (okay yup yup yup)
Species: M. fascicularis
Anyway, within a few seconds of this little bugger making its presence known, as predicted, by the monkey, someone gave it an apple. At first he was all “Pinkies out, manners monkey.”
Then he finished the apple, and became the less friendly “give me more snacks” monkey. Even though I am an opportunist and did not squander this photo op., it was not without a sense of impending doom. Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Give a monkey food and you’ve created a gremlin monster. Here are overly simplified reasons to not feed monkeys.
- Monkeys will see all humans as vending machines. What do you do to a vending machine that isn’t giving you food? You physically assault it until food is produced.
- You and the monkey will trade germs. The movie Outbreak will happen (I know I reference Outbreak a lot…clearly the movie had an impact on me). Alternatively, you get the monkey sick, which is actually way sadder.
- Monkeys will rely on human food and stop trying to get their own food, and possibly forget how. Baby monkeys will never learn how to get food the old fashioned way. When humans aren’t around, poor sad monkeys are hungry.
The moral of the story is that you want monkeys to like you for you, and not use you soullessly for your food. You is smart, you is kind, you is important. You don’t need to pay for their friendship. A better strategy is to study monkey behavior so you can communicate with them directly. People will also probably avoid you if you do this, allowing for more alone time with you and your new pal.
On the way to Angkor Thom, we ran into another group-o-monkeys. This was actually an operation regulated by locals who were selling food that you could then give to the monkeys. SLIGHTLY better because the food seemed to be somewhat regulated. And by that I mean it looked like someone put some thought into it, in that it wasn’t a collection of tourist scraps. Although some of it was definitely popcorn…
However, a literal toxic relationship between human and primate pal is still possible. You could find yourself in a Stage 5-clinger situation (see below).