Home Institution

Macalester College

Publication Date

Spring 2019

Program Name

Indonesia: Arts, Religion, and Social Change


Bali is one of Indonesia’s seventeen thousand islands and it has become a major tourist destination for visitors from all over the world. One of the most sought after attractions are the various monkey forests on the island, and one of the most renowned is the Padangtegal Monkey Forest in Ubud. As someone who studies Biological Anthropology, I am fascinated by primates both human and non-human. Within the Ubud Monkey Forest these two species come into contact on a daily basis.

Ethnoprimatology is a growing study, and it refers to the “interconnections between human and nonhuman primates” (McCarthy et al. 2009). Most of these studies center around the genus Macaca. Their home ranges overlap with humans from South East Asia to Northern Africa and they are a common tourist attraction. However, unmanaged and unsafe close contact between humans and macaques can have extreme consequences for the health of both species. Macaques can transmit simian foamy virus, herpes B virus, among others. In turn, humans can transmit measles, influenza, and respiratory pathogens to macaques. There are also studies that suggest that human-macaque interactions can also lead to “heightened intragroup aggression macaques, injury, and missed or negative educational experiences for humans” (McCarthy et al. 2009). Yet these places are still so sought after. This forest offers a unique environment to explore the ways in which the macaques interact with the visitors. I wanted to develop a better understanding of Balinese Hinduism and its connection with monkeys. I also was interested in how these animals are managed, as well as the role they play in the tourism industry.

Understanding the methodologies used to conduct a field study are extremely important as they allow the reader to consider the validity of an argument as well as the ethics involved. I used ethnographic interviews, published literature, and behavioral observations to better understand the human-monkey interactions from a religious point of view and also that of a tourist. The specific methods I utilized will be extrapolated upon further in those sections.

Furthermore, this paper seeks to understand the relationship between macaques and humans in the Padangtegal Monkey Forest located in Ubud, Bali. I examine whether: 1) the rate of interactions between humans and monkeys was related to number of tourists in proximity to the feeding location; 2) the rate of interactions between monkeys and humans was related to the presence of certain age sex classifications of monkeys; 4) interactions were most commonly affiliative, submissive, or aggressive.


Animal Studies | Asian Studies | Environmental Indicators and Impact Assessment | Environmental Studies | Forest Sciences | Pacific Islands Languages and Societies | Social and Cultural Anthropology | Tourism | Zoology


Article Location