Abstract # 25:

Scheduled for Thursday, June 21, 2007 01:45 PM-02:00 PM: Session 5 (North Main Hall E) Oral Presentation

Self-directed behavior correlates with tourist density in free-living Tibetan macaques (Macaca thibetana) at the Valley of the Wild Monkeys, Mt. Huangshan, China

M. D. Matheson1, J. Hartel2, C. Whitaker3, L. K. Sheeran1, J. H. Li4 and R. S. Wagner1
1Central Washington University, 400 E. University Way, Ellensburg, WA 98926-7575, USA, 2University of Southern California, 3California State University - Fullerton, 4Anhui University, China
     Where tourism is used to conserve extant populations of primates, little research has focused on the human impact on primates themselves. We measured self-directed behaviors (SDBs) – a behavioral index of stress – in a group of Macaca thibetana that is the target of tourism, to assess whether increases in tourist density negatively impact individuals. Focal sampling was employed to monitor monkeys’ behavior when they were in the vicinity of a viewing platform, while instantaneous records were made of tourist density on the platform. Data from two sessions (August 2005 and August 2006) were analyzed. In 2005, there was a significant correlation between mean tourist density and SDBs across all focal samples [r(69)=0.38, p<0.01], but only when the monkeys were in “Zone 1” – an area where monkeys are surrounded on two sides by the platform. In 2006 there were significant correlations between tourist density and SDBs in Zone 1 [r(74)=0.32, p<0.01] and the other two platform-adjacent zones [r(27)=0.39, p<0.05; and r(10)=0.67, p<0.05]. The latter two were specific to those monkeys most frequently in the zone (Zone 2) or the few occasions when monkeys entered the zone (Zone 3); other monkeys consistently avoided each zone. Taken together, these data indicate that large groups of tourists can cause distress for monkeys, but monkeys may modulate this stress by avoiding certain human-proximate areas.