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Urban monkeys have evolved cognitive skills

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Agra, 2016.02.10 (Aditya Dev TOI): A comparative study of the behaviour of rhesus monkeys in the wild and urbanized areas of Agra region, conducted by Dayalbagh Educational Institute, has found that urban simians have not only changed their diet but their cognitive skills have evolved to interesting activities like fruit peeling, nut breaking, rubbing toast on stone before consuming them.

Wild monkeys do not behave in this manner. Moreover, instead of restricting themselves to arboreal areas (living mainly on trees), the urban monkeys were observed contesting for space on the ground with other species like dogs, cats, rodents and cattle.

The study was carried out by post-graduate students Chandresh Sharma and Manveer Singh, of the institute’s department of zoology, under supervision of animal behaviour scientist Reshma Bhatnagar and eminent zoologist Ashok K Sinha, with field observations lasting from August to November, 2015.

Out of 18 behaviours targeted in the study, seven mutually exclusive ones were observed in two different troops of monkeys, one inhabiting the jungle areas of Tajganj and the other around Mankameshwar temple in Rawat Para in Agra. “Urban monkeys have adopted many human tendencies like playing with soft toys, cloth and tarpaulin sacks, much like human babies. They also modified their habitat,” said Sharma.

The researcher pointed out that while wild monkeys still spend almost 14 hours a day in search of food in the jungles, urban monkeys easily get food in a few minutes and rest for the entire day. Due to lack of physical labour, urban monkeys drink water only once or twice a day, whereas wild monkeys constantly quench their thirst.

“Aggression, intra-troop competition and inter-species conflict, especially with humans was statistically computed. The values for urban monkeys were significantly higher than for wild monkeys. This can be explained by the fact that the urban habitat poses many threats to the monkeys, like electricity lines, transformers, traffic and dense population of other species including humans,” Bhatnagar said. “Other threats include glass shards on building walls and absence of nutritious food, forcing monkeys to eat polythene,” she added.

The animal behavior scientist said the research team suggests declaring rhesus monkeys as vermin and concrete steps should be taken to translocate them to the wild. “This might proactively prevent a struggle for existence between monkeys and humans,” she added.
The researchers said efforts can be made to enrich the simians’ cognitive skills by well-planned and scientifically drafted skill development programmes for them in their original habitat. “For this, NGOs and government along with animal behaviour scientists like our research team can co-ordinate a one-of-a-kind rehabilitation cum cognitive enrichment project,” Bhatnagar added.
Incidentally, the administration has launched a project in collaboration with Wildlife SOS to sterilize and vaccinate around 500 monkeys in the first phase.

The post Urban monkeys have evolved cognitive skills appeared first on Vrindavan Today.

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