Project Sea Monkey



In 2005, during a post-tsunami biodiversity project on the west coast of Thailand a population of stone-tool using Burmese long-tailed macaques (Macaca fascicularis aurea) was found in Laemson National Park (LSNP) in Ranong Province, Thailand. LSNP is a marine national park and protects the sea and coastal regions of the area. In 2007, we began Project Sea Monkey out of Nanyang Technological University (NTU) and Chulalongkorn University (CU) to learn more about these macaques' tool-using traditions.
 
In Thai Language, these macaques are referred to
as "Ling Thalay", which means "Sea Monkey". They are referred to in this way because they live along the coastal regions of Thailand and frequently visit the shores for foraging and resting. Such monkeys are commonly observed in mangroves, on rocky shores, and sometimes even on the same sandy beaches that the foreign tourists of Thailand love to frequent.

Although we are just beginning research into the
the distribution of tool-using macaques in Thailand, prior nation-wide surveys indicate that stone-using traditions in Thailand's monkeys are not very common. The population at LSNP is therefore a representative population of perhaps what was once a much more common behavior along the coasts of Thailand before human development displaced wildlife from many of the shore areas.  

On the map to the rig
ht, you can see the location of LSNP. The island with the most common tool use is shaded in black, and is called Koh Piak Nam Yai (PYY). Just the to east of PYY, tool-using monkeys can also be found on Thao Island. Macaques are found on no other islands in LSNP, but tool use does occur on the northern shores of Koh Phayam, which is an island near LSNP. Tool use also occurs on a couple mainland areas in Ranong. On the eastern coast of Thailand, one macaque was observed to use a stone hammer at Khao Sam Roi Yot National Park, but we have yet to find any location where macaque stone use is as extensive or easy to observe as on PYY. At PYY, over 150 macaques, from 9 different groups, use stone tools for hours each day.


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