We hear of interspecies relationships, but rarely get to witness it with our own eyes. A monkey and a dog are not the most obvious pairing, but I saw it with my own eyes.
A Beautiful Relationship
This dog plays the role of surrogate mother to this baby crab-eating macaque at a tour operator in the Micronesian island of Palau. The pair are inseparable. An ideal example of interspecies relationships. The dog eagerly waits, tail wagging, tongue hanging out near the monkey’s cage. The monkey impatiently paces, waiting for his cage to be opened so that he can be reunited with his “mom.” Once out, all it takes is one agile jump to the dog’s back and there he stays the entire day. Just as a monkey would carry her baby around, the dog chauffeurs his “baby” around.
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The baby stays put, only hopping off to grab a piece of fruit from a tourist before just as quickly jumping back on. He shows his appreciation by grooming his new “mom”. He sleeps on her back and appears to feel safe when he’s with her. His affection for her is obvious and equally returned. The dog, like any protective mother, protects him from tourists who get too close simply walking off to a quieter place. The baby crab-eating macaque likely feels safer with his “mom” than he does in his cage. It is an amazing example of interspecies relationships as thee dog cares for the baby monkey as if it was her own.
As I watched these two interact for over an hour, it became clear to me that love has no boundaries. How the monkey got there though is an altogether different story and a much sadder one. As is the story of the other baby crab-eating macaque who kept nervously pacing his small cage. Both were very likely captured from the wild and taken from their mother who would have been killed.
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The Sad Truth
Crab-eating macaques are protective mothers and don’t hand over their babies easily. I was on the phone for hours calling the Forestry department, and the animal shelter to report this cruelty. Unfortunately, it didn’t lead anywhere. In Palau, crab-eating macaques are considered to be pests. No one cared. I spent the rest of the day crying. I knew that I couldn’t help these two crab-eating macaques, who would no doubt be killed (if they survived that long) once they became unruly adolescents.
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My heart was breaking but I vowed to help other primates. I’ve kept that promise. I volunteer weekly with Japanese macaques and marmosets at a sanctuary in Munich. I offer primate tours to see gorillas and lemurs which helps protect these incredible species. And I try to advocate on primates and other animals’ behalf with posts like Are You Accidentally Inflicting Animal Cruelty on Your Vacation? and What You Can Learn About Love From Primates. Still, years later, I remember the two crab-eating macaques that I couldn’t help. It’s a daunting memory that continues to inspire me to work harder to prevent other primates from a similar horrendous fate.
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I was in awe at what I saw, this special interspecies relationship that was helping these poor crab-eating macaques, at least for some time. It was a bittersweet experience.