The famous 'cheeky monkeys' of Bali have gone from swiping hats and glasses to stealing more high value items from visitors, as a new study suggests the animals have begun extorting tourists for treats
The antics of monkeys at the Uluwatu Temple in Bali have made it into a tourist attraction.
The phenomenon of the animals ransoming swiped belongings for food endeared them to visitors. However, scientists say these petty crimes are escalating.
A study has shown that the marauding macaques have learned a stolen iPhone will yield a tastier treat than a swiped cap or scarf – something that has developed into new behaviours.
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Research published in The Royal Society science journal into "food bartering behaviours" of the animals has suggested the primates have developed an understanding of economics. The researchers from Canada's University of Lethbridge and Udayana University in Indonesia found that with age and exposure to tourists the monkeys were able to determine the "value" of an item.
The report conducted over four years said the animals had learned "clear behavioural associations between value-based token possession and quantity or quality of food rewards."
Mobile phones, wallets and prescription glasses were all among the top items on the monkeys' hit list.
The animals were shown to have started "preferentially" targeting items of "higher value", decisions based on how much food could extort as ransom from foolish tourist.
This has led to great excitement from the scientific community and great annoyance from visitors, who don't find the behavior quite so charming.
It is only within the last few decades and with exposure to tourists at the temple. Dr Jean-Baptiste Leca of the University of Lethbridge says the macaques have developed a cultural intelligence and a bartering economy:
"These behaviours are socially learned and have been maintained across generations of monkeys for at least 30 years in this population," Leca told the Guardian.