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A study of the social behaviour and ecology on the wild Barbary macaque, Macaca sylvanus L.

A study of the social behaviour and ecology on the wild Barbary macaque, Macaca sylvanus L.
John Maxwell Deag


Department of Psychology, University of Bristol, Bristol BS8 1TH, UNITED KINGDOM.


The various types of field studies of macaques are discussed, and it is suggested that more attention should be paid to the relative participation of individuals in several types of social interaction, absolute frequencies of social interaction, the relative sociability and proximity of individuals, communication, the function of social interactions, and obtaining larger samples of ecological data. The present study was orientated towards some of these points. In the present and past centuries there has been periodic interest in Macaca sylvanus but behavioural work did not commence until 1964.

This project represents the first detailed research on the species in the wild. I aimed to locate a wild, undisturbed population, make a preliminary study of its ecology and behaviour and then a detailed quantitative analysis of the behaviour of one group. For the latter, two methods were used, one based on social interactions and the other on the relative distance between individuals. Data was collected in such a way that the results from each method could be directly compared.

The Barbary macaque lives in isolated populations scattered in mountainous areas of Morocco, Algeria and Gibraltar. Its distribution and habitat in these areas are discussed. In Morocco it is found in cedar forests and holm oak forests in the Middle Atlas, more open mixed forests in the Rif, and oak and juniper scrub on steep slopes and gorges in the High Atlas. The study area at Ain Kahla (Morocco Middle Atlas Mountains) was in a cedar forest in a dolomite - calcite region.

The factors determining the distribution of the species are dis- cussed. It is suggested that macaques can survive temperate conditions by having catholic feeding habits and a correspondingly generalized body structure. Man is probably primarily responsible for the present discontinuous distribution of the species.