Changing social strategies of wild female bonnet macaques during natural foraging and on provisioning

Publication Type:

Journal Articles


Current Science, Volume 84, Number 6, p.780–790 (2003)



Provisioning of free-living primate groups usually leads to a significant increase in competition among individuals for the newly available resources. Do such individuals, however, exhibit altered behavioural strategies to alleviate social tension? Changing patterns of social interactions between adult females was studied in a wild group of bonnet macaques (Macaca radiata) in the Mudumalai Wildlife Sanctuary, Tamil Nadu, southern India, under two conditions of foraging. The group spent approximately 66% of the observation time foraging on its natural diet; during the remaining period the group gathered provisioned food from tourists visiting the sanctuary. Provisioning was marked by a sharp increase in aggression and feeding supplants within the group. Dominant females directed contact aggression specifically towards higher-ranked subordinates, while subordinate females increased non-contact aggression towards their dominant counterparts. Allogrooming was, however, much more reciprocated at the group level during provisioning. Subordinate females also initiated relatively more allogrooming towards those dominant individuals who were most aggressive during this period. Social tensions thus increase markedly when bonnet macaques move from natural foraging to competing for provisioned food; individual macaques, however, can adopt appropriate social strategies under such rapidly changing ecological regimes.


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