Treat time for the macaques!
Here in Ciapus we have been experimenting with different treats for our rescued macaques. Just as with humans, animals have favourite foods and given a choice, will make a beeline for their favourite snacks!
Most macaques here prefer to eat papaya, boiled eggs and guava fruit rather than carrots or apples. However, one type of food that drives them crazy (and I mean crazy!) is seeds: sunflower, corn and rice. Whenever we put seeds in any of the enrichment devices (see previous post), the animals immediately target these delicious seeds before eating anything else. So I was very much looking forward to seeing their reaction when the keepers gave them the special treat bags they had made – small bags filled with honey or syrup coated seeds!
This sugary treat is a weekly ritual here at the centre, and is part of the enrichment program. I had not seen it before, but my previous encounter with capuchin monkeys (neotropical primates I worked with before coming to Ciapus) had shown me how much they love it. They would grab as much as they could in their hands, stuffing some in their mouths and even in their armpits and run away from the other monkeys! I was looking forward to seeing what crafty strategies the macaques would come up with!
Macaques have “cheek pouches”, which allow them to store huge amount of food in their cheeks (they extend into their necks!) but I have never seen them being used to the degree they used them for storing these seeds. In fact, I was so astonished that I did some further research, and discovered that these pouches can extend to the size of their stomachs! So no clever strategy required for the macaques – just stuff as much as possible into the cheek pouches!
Watching these macaques was like watching a bunch of kids in a room full of goodie bags. After taking the first bag, they couldn’t stop looking for another, and after taking 2 or 3 (each day they’re given an exact amount of food to meet their nutritional requirements, so the amount of bags per group of macaques is also limited), they would just find a place to start the hard work of opening the bags and the process of filling up their pouches.
It was a very nice thing to see. I would say that was very close to pure happiness for the animals, and I just couldn’t stop smiling. There are definitely no words to describe the feeling you get when you see these animals enjoying things (and on their way to freedom!) after the suffering many of them have endured in the illegal wildlife trade.
That was a very cool day for me (and I’m sure it was a very nice day for the macaques as well!) and I thankfully had my camera with me so I could get some shots of the events! Hope you enjoy!