It’s an unfortunate situation in which to find yourself when your favourite domestic animal likes to harass and kill your study species. That, however, is the scenario we have to deal with regularly in Bouhachem where domestic dogs owned by villagers harass and sometimes kill the Endangered Barbary macaque. Apart from worrying how this might be affecting macaque mortality, there is the tendency to want to “do something”, but anything we do has to be done carefully as the Barbary macaques are as scared of people as they are of dogs. In the example of the wounded female in the article, we saw off the attacking dogs and stayed around to ensure the female was unmolested as she made her slow, painful progress from the ground up into the tree. As soon as she was safe in the tree, we left because her nearby family members were too frightened of us to return to her side. You can download the article here: www.barbarymacaque.org/publications/new-paper-dogs-disrupting-wildlife/
Other notable heart in mouth moments have been watching an exhausted, very heavily pregnant macaque sleeping on the forest floor and praying that no dog would suddenly, silently run in and attack her. Another nail biting experience was watching an adult male desperately trying to take a very small infant to safety as it defiantly clung onto a plant only feet away from a charging dog. Thankfully the male succeeded!
Our work showed that spring was the period when dog attacks took place most often and lasted the longest. Unfortunately, this behaviour coincides with Barbary macaques heavily pregnant, giving birth and lactating, so they need to feed for long periods, finding most of their food on the ground. We have no idea how this may affect infant survivorship. However, one dog had the misfortune to get grabbed by the throat by a male macaque demonstrating that monkeys are not always the victims.
We have worked with the villagers who own dogs, vaccinating the animals against rabies. Our field team regularly monitors macaque groups and stops any dog harassment. We continue to work with village communities on dog health and welfare issues as part of our holistic approach to conservation.