Animals can be provoked to attack by disturbance and discomfort. To avoid putting yourself and the animal in danger, follow the guidelines below:
- RESPECT THEIR HABITAT: large numbers of visitors can impact on delicate eco- systems – follow the motto ‘take only photographs and leave only footprints’.
- DON’T GET TOO CLOSE: Like us, primates have a sense of personal space; gauge how they react to you as you approach, and stop when they look nervous. Usually this will be a safe distance for both parties.
- DON’T PURSUE THEM: If they move away, wait a while before approaching again, otherwise they will get the impression you are chasing them.
- USE A GUIDE: If there are official guides, or local people who can help guide you, hiring them improves your chances of seeing the primates and encourages the local community to value their primate neighbors even if they are a nuisance.
- NEVER FEED PRIMATES human food, or eat in front of them. The next person carrying a bag like yours might be attacked because a wild primate learned it might contain food. If there is an organized system of feeding appropriate foods, you can judge whether you want to participate, but such places can have a negative impact on their health and behavior if not well managed.
- IT’S RUDE TO STARE: As in human society, a long, uninterrupted stare is intimidating and can be mistaken for a challenge. Look away and glance back if you catch their eye.
- COUGHS AND SNEEZES CAN KILL: If you visit primates while sick – even with just a runny nose or diarrhea, you risk killing them. Because they are close relatives, many diseases can be transmitted either way between humans and primates.
- DON’T TRY TO PET THEM: You might think you are being friendly, but a primate might interpret your attempt to touch them as aggression and bite back. Even if you don’t get bitten, you risk exposing yourself and your family to their viruses, bacteria and parasites.
Advice provided by Ian Redmond OBE, Ambassador of UN Year of the Gorilla + Chief Consultant for GRASP - UNEP/UNESCO Great Ape Survival Partnership + Wildlife Consultant for the Born Free Foundation (2009).