Activity Budgets and Habitat Use of Wild Southern Pig-Tailed Macaques (Macaca nemestrina) in Oil Palm Plantation and Forest
Conversion of primary rainforest to agricultural land causes habitat loss and fragmentation and is a major threat to wild primates worldwide. Conversion of forest to oil palm plantations (Elaeis guineensis) is a particular problem, so it is important to understand whether and how primates use such plantations. Populations of southern pig-tailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina) are declining in Peninsular Malaysia due, in large part, to conversion of primary forests to oil palm plantations. Researchers have observed macaques foraging in plantations but little information is available about how macaques cope with the expansion of plantations into their habitat. We collected GPS data on the home range of a group of wild pig-tailed macaques that foraged in both habitat types in May 2013–May 2015, and compared their use of oil palm plantation and primary rainforest by recording their activity budgets and analyzing their habitat use and diet in both habitat types 4–6 days per week in October 2014–December 2015. The group visited the plantations daily. In 2013–2014, 17% of the group’s overall home range core area (0.6 km2) was in oil palm plantations and in 2014–2015, this increased to 28%. However, the macaques spent most of the day time in the forest and always used a sleeping tree in the forest. Macaque activity budgets in the plantation were significantly different from those in the forest. Feeding and foraging comprised a significantly larger proportion of their activity budget in the plantation, while locomotion, resting, and social behaviors occurred significantly more often in the forest. In both habitats, macaques spent most of their time on the ground and foraged primarily on the ground in the plantation. Of food items eaten in the plantation 85% were oil palm parts, including attached and fallen oil palm fruits and seeds, and flowers. Oil palm plantations serve as additional foraging ground for these macaques, but our results also show that the forest is essential, providing a greater dietary diversity and sleeping sites and allowing resting and social activities. It is not clear to what degree pig-tailed macaque populations can adapt to human-altered environments in the long term. Although our study group used oil palm plantations as regular foraging and feeding ground, pig-tailed macaques are also closely associated with the rainforest habitat, and the protection of natural forest is essential for their conservation.
KeywordsCercopithecidae Elaeis guineensis Home range Human–primate interface Peninsular Malaysia
We acknowledge The Rufford Foundation UK (RSG 16978-1) and USM Short-Term Grant (304/PBIOLOGI/6313256) for funding, and the Perak State Forestry Department and the Department of Wildlife and National Parks Peninsular Malaysia for issuing respective research permits. We thank Drs. Asyraf Mansor, Shahrul Anuar Mohd Sah, and Hamdan Ahmad for their assistance in providing the necessary logistics during the pilot phase of this project. Our deepest gratitude goes to Dr. Antje Engelhardt for her guidance and strong support to kick-start this ongoing long-term project, and her valuable comments on the early manuscript drafts. We also thank Samantha Gate for helping to conduct the feeding scans. We are very grateful to all students, volunteers, friends, and colleagues who assisted in the preparations for this project, in the habituation process of the initially two groups of macaques, and who helped with logistics and field work. We also thank Dr. Susan Lappan for proofreading and the anonymous reviewers and journal editor for providing useful comments that strongly improved this article.
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