Anyone who has been to Thekkady is familiar with their extroverted nature. They screech and cackle, chase and fight each other in the most public spaces possible, and love to make themselves a nuisance. Bonnet Macaques are ubiquitous, quite probably because of how outgoing and shameless they are – and they seem to like their families big.
In some ways, these monkeys are not so different from us. Monkeys react to stimuli according to the surroundings they’ve been naturally conditioned in – Nilgiri Langurs tend to avoid contact with humans since they are unfamiliar with our presence in their natural environment. Bonnet Macaques are frequently urban animals, and they watch and learn. It isn’t rare to see an errant adolescent symian snatch food and unfamiliar objects on the street – behavior also exhibited by delinquent humans. Curiosity and hunger are probable motivators in the monkeys’ case – but what parallels can be drawn between a mischievous monkey’s behavior and a selfish human’s?
Are we following the monkeys’ example instinctually when we take something that isn’t ours? Do we, as primates, have mental or survival processes that follow the suit of those other ‘less sophisticated’ primates? In a place like Thekkady, either case could be made just as easily. Have we learned from them, or have they learned from us? At risk of sounding nihilistic, I’ll say it doesn’t matter. Monkeys are just as humane as humans, but humans are more savage animals than monkeys could ever hope not to be.
This post’s purpose is to provoke thought on what supposedly makes a human more than an animal. And why, despite their ability to show compassion and love, these monkeys are considered not to possess any humanity.