Population Dynamics and Conservation of Commensal Bonnet Macaques
Whereas much attention is paid to the conservation and management of threatened species of primates, little work is reported on the species that are at lower risk. We report data on demography and population dynamics in commensal bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata radiata) sharing human habitats in Intensive Cultivation, Dry Cultivation and Scrub Forest zones around the city of Mysore, south India. We also compare the data with the previous data collected in 1989 and 1998 on the same groups by our research team. The population has suffered an overall decline of 21.3% (at an intrinsic rate (r) of -0.017) with Dry Cultivation habitat alone recording over 41% decline (r=-0.038) in 14 years. The Dry Cultivation habitat has also shown increased population fragmentation due to increased distance among groups, and decreased numbers of individuals per subpopulation. In Dry Cultivation areas, the number of small groups has been increasing, whereas the number of medium and large groups has been decreasing. We discuss such trends in the context of human-monkey conflict for shared resources. We propose that effective conservation strategies for lower risk species, especially if they are by-and-large commensal, must be planned now before they become threatened. We further propose that Scrub Forests with places of worship, and with the least human-monkey conflict but otherwise close to intensively used human habitats, are the most suitable and stable habitats for conservation of bonnet macaques.