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Applying social network and personality trait analyses to understanding and managing human-macaque sympatry in urban Singapore


   Department of Anthropology

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  Dr A Tan, Dr R Kendal, Dr E Price  No more applications being accepted  Competition Funded PhD Project (Students Worldwide)

About the Project

Please see https://iapetus2.ac.uk/studentships/applying-social-network-and-personality-trait-analyses-to-understanding-and-managing-human-macaque-sympatry-in-urban-singapore/?fbclid=IwAR00EY4QTDmngyh2IUZX_HEkItVnuLJtpn0TcBpGDrIC2wHbDGZZVfVAZ8g for full details.

The need to understand and manage human-primate sympatry is growing in tandem with human population expansion and urbanization worldwide. As behaviourally flexible species, some primates thrive in human-altered habitats by adapting to urban spaces and exploiting high-quality anthropogenic foods, but these interactions often result in property damage, economic loss, and health and safety concerns for human communities. Mitigation efforts such as culling and sterilisation are often implemented with lethal and long-term consequences for the health of wild populations, without effectively resolving issues. In contrast, non-lethal approaches have the potential to provide ecologically sustainable solutions for managing coexistence, but require a sound understanding of how primates acquire and transmit behavioural practices.

The need to understand and manage human-primate sympatry is growing in tandem with human population expansion and urbanization worldwide. As behaviourally flexible species, some primates thrive in human-altered habitats by adapting to urban spaces and exploiting high-quality anthropogenic foods, but these interactions often result in property damage, economic loss, and health and safety concerns for human communities. Mitigation efforts such as culling and sterilisation are often implemented with lethal and long-term consequences for the health of wild populations, without effectively resolving issues. In contrast, non-lethal approaches have the potential to provide ecologically sustainable solutions for managing coexistence, but require a sound understanding of how primates acquire and transmit behavioural practices.

Social networks in group-living primates influence the acquisition and transmission of a wide range of behavioural adaptations ranging from resource selection to tool use. There is also growing recognition that individual variation in personality traits such as boldness, anxiety, and exploratory tendency not only influence how animals adapt to urban environments, but further modulate social networks and how individuals generate or use information, whether asocial or socially. These behavioural principles are thus germane to understanding the propagation of conflict-promoting behaviour within primate groups and are crucial for predicting group and individual level responses to management interventions, and yet, have rarely been applied to examining and managing human-primate interfaces. In this project we aim to address these issues within the context of human-macaque conflict in Singapore, by examining how macaque social networks and individual-specific traits can be used to understand how ‘undesirable’ behaviour is acquired and maintained in social groups and to anticipate the outcomes of conflict-mitigation strategies.

Managing human-macaque conflict has been an enduring challenge in urban Singapore. Singapore’s macaque population, estimated at approximately 2000 individuals across 92 groups, is concentrated along the edges of conserved forest. In land-scarce and population-dense Singapore, these nature reserves are encircled by urban infrastructure and residential development with no buffer between macaque ranges and human settlement. Conflicts arise over macaques entering properties, raiding refuse, and snatching food. Such behaviour has been conditioned over a long history of human provisioning either via deliberate feeding, or failure by residents and park visitors to secure properties and refuse sites. Historically, culling in response to complaints have resulted in up to a third of the population being exterminated in a single year. More recently however, volunteer-led organisations have initiated behavioral intervention strategies aimed at reconditioning macaque behaviour by training ‘Monkey Gaurds’ to deter macaques from entering residential premises, and call for accompanying research to examine and inform the efficacy of these measures.

The successful candidate will carry out field work in Singapore. They will work closely with supervisors and the Long-Tailed Macaque Working Group in Singapore (see End-User Collaboration Contributions) to identify and study groups of long-tailed macaques in problematic interface zones and to examine how macaque social networks influence patterns of anthropogenic resource use and problematic interactions with humans. Moreover, they will investigate how individual-specific traits modulate these patterns of macaque-human interactions, and how networks and individuals respond to behavioural intervention strategies.


Funding Notes

This studentship is in competition with other projects in the Iapetus DTP.
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