Dean M. Chriss
Catching Crabs, Long-Tailed Macaque, Borneo
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The long-tailed macaque, Macaca fascicularis, is also called the crab-eating macaque. It is found in southeast Asia from Burma to the Philippines and southward through Indochina, Malaysia, and Indonesia. There are about 2-3 million in the wild but they are threatened by habitat loss and persecution by humans. Long-tailed macaques are hunted for food and as a pest on cultivated crops. They are also among the top 5 most-used primates for medical research. The long tailed macaque was the clinical test animal for development of the polio vaccine.
Long tailed macaques eat a wide variety of foods such as fruits, crabs, flowers, insects, leaves, fungi, and grasses. We came upon a troop of these macaques foraging for food in the mangrove swamps one morning as the tide was going out. They were eating various marine creatures which they dug up from the mud. As the ocean receded, the macaques followed the water line and were soon on the sandy beach. We watched this macaque stand peering into the water for crabs. As soon as he spotted one, he would press his hand down on it and carefully drag it in through the sand toward him. Then, as he lifted up the crab, it would bite his fingers so he had to do a hasty juggling act with both hands before the crab could be successfully torn apart and eaten.