Primates, Provisioning and Plants: Impacts of Human Cultural Behaviours on Primate Ecological Functions

Sengupta, Asmita and MacConkey, Kim R and Radhakrishna, Sindhu (2015) Primates, Provisioning and Plants: Impacts of Human Cultural Behaviours on Primate Ecological Functions. PLOS One, 10 (11). e0140961.

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Abstract: Human provisioning of wildlife with food is a widespread global practice that occurs in multiple socio-cultural circumstances. Provisioning may indirectly alter ecosystem functioning through changes in the eco-ethology of animals, but few studies have quantified this aspect. Provisioning of primates by humans is known to impact their activity budgets, diets and ranging patterns. Primates are also keystone species in tropical forests through their role as seed dispersers; yet there is no information on how provisioning might affect primate ecological functions. The rhesus macaque is a major human-commensal species but is also an important seed disperser in the wild. In this study, we investigated the potential impacts of provisioning on the role of rhesus macaques as seed dispersers in the Buxa Tiger Reserve, India. We studied a troop of macaques which were provisioned for a part of the year and were dependent on natural resources for the rest. We observed feeding behaviour, seed handling techniques and ranging patterns of the macaques and monitored availability of wild fruits. Irrespective of fruit availability, frugivory and seed dispersal activities decreased when the macaques were provisioned. Provisioned macaques also had shortened daily ranges implying shorter dispersal distances. Finally, during provisioning periods, seeds were deposited on tarmac roads that were unconducive for germination. Provisioning promotes human-primate conflict, as commensal primates are often involved in aggressive encounters with humans over resources, leading to negative consequences for both parties involved. Preventing or curbing provisioning is not an easy task as feeding wild animals is a socio-cultural tradition across much of South and South-East Asia, including India. We recommend the initiation of literacy programmes that educate lay citizens about the ill-effects of provisioning and strongly caution them against the practice.
Item Type: Journal Paper
Additional Information: Copyright belongs to the authors
Subjects: School of Natural and Engineering Sciences > Animal Behaviour
Programmes > Ecology, Behaviour and Conservation
Divisions: Schools > Natural Sciences and Engineering
Date Deposited: 04 Apr 2016 06:28
Last Modified: 04 Apr 2016 07:00
Official URL:
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    Funders: Department of Science and Technlogy, GOI
    Projects: UNSPECIFIED
    DOI: 10.1371/journal.pone.0140961

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