Thursday, August 26, 2010

Macaques and Their "Pet" Kittens

Do you remember a post last month on pet keeping in animals? If you don't remember or never read it, here's the link (Do animals keep pets?). I just received a link from a friend of mine (Thanks Kristen!) about a long tailed macaque adopting a kitten in Ubud, a town in Bali, Indonesia. Below is a YouTube video of said macaque with his "pet" kitten taken in 2008. Read more about this story on Treehugger and on Telegraph.

There is also another "documented" incident of a macaque adopting a kitten in the city of Jhansi, India. This video was taken in 2007.

Do you think that these two incidents provide enough evidence that animals (primates) are capable of pet-keeping? Or is this merely nurturing instinct that is hardwired into some animals? Again, what is your take on pet-keeping and how would you define it? Are pet-keeping unique to humans? 

In a glance, I personally think that these two incidents merely shows a more nurturing side of the macaques than pet-keeping. Although, since this is not a longitudinal study, I can't extrapolate much from a few minutes of footage. What do you think? 

And to end this post, here's a gratuitous picture of a nurturing primate and his pet kitten.


Anonymous said...

I think it's interesting that both males and females of (what I assume, at least--the video quality and my diminished visual abilities are working against me) different species have exhibited this kind of behavior.

I don't know if I'd say "pet-keeping" is unique to humans; I think that one is a little anthropomorphic in nature. But I wouldn't hesitate at all to consider this as maybe a symbiotic relationship in so much as the kittens receive nurturing, the monkeys receive enrichment and potentially the same health benefits as humans in that role.

Granted, that would also require research to really examine the relationship and I'm sure that's also anthropomorphic as well, but that's just my two cents.

ohgod so cute though!

Raymond Vagell said...

I'm quite worried about the kitten from video #1 because it seems like it probably need highly nutritious food to grow at that age. I hope Papa Macaque doesn't try to feed the kitten fruits!

I don't know if I would agree with Herzog's view on "pet keeping" (See DO ANIMALS KEEP PETS?).

He believes that humans are "true" pet owners because the owner-pet relationship occurs in a natural setting and argues that animal pet owners are not "true" pet owners because this behavior occurs in captive or semi-captive settings. Herzog believes that humans are the only animals that keep pets.

Pet keeping behavior might be an aberrant or maladaptive behavior that occurs in "non-natural" settings but I don't think we should discount an animal's ability to keep pets. I think this whole "pet keeping" mentality is very human-centric in general.

I agree with your view about anthropomorphizing though. When someone sees an animal (presumably larger, stronger) with another animal (presumably smaller, weaker), they immediately thinks that it is a pet and owner relationship. Little do we know, it might just be free-range lunch ;)