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  • Writer's pictureNadi Bangi

Coexistence and Controversies at UKM Campus

Updated: Jan 14



Amidst the scenic landscape and vibrant campus life at UKM, a distinct presence adds both charm and occasional challenges: the monkeys. These agile and lively creatures have made themselves at home among the towering trees, their playful antics often delighting passersby. Yet, alongside the fascination they evoke, tales of food raids and sporadic confrontations have woven a varied tapestry of experiences among the university community. The coexistence of humans and these mischievous primates has sparked a spectrum of interactions, shaping the dynamic ambiance of the campus.


Monkeys are able to climb the trees to access wild fruits for nourishment, and the trees offer a convenient location for the monkeys to engage in activities such as play, rest, and fighting. The campus of the University of Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) is surrounded by tropical rainforest and mountains, making it a habitat for a significant population of monkeys. However, many students try to avoid contact with monkeys on campus due to previous experiences of food theft and even attacks. It should be noted that monkeys do not possess human moral sense. We interviewed the security officer of UKM regarding the impact of monkeys on campus. According to him, local students are generally not affected by monkeys. However, it is true that some monkeys can be playful and may grab items from students' hands or follow them. It is important for students to not provoke the monkeys, as they are unlikely to harm humans unless provoked. Measures are in place to ensure campus safety, and efforts are made to avoid conflicts between monkeys and students. We spoke with an international student at UKM who shared that she had never experienced anything like this in China. She recounted her first encounter with monkeys stealing her food at UKM, where she was holding an apple and some snacks, and the monkeys snatched them away. Although it was an unforgettable experience, she found it amusing.

It is common to cause trouble and bully others in monkey groups. The severity of bullying in these groups surpasses that of human campuses. Once a new monkey king takes power, he will kill the original young monkeys in the group, and lower-status monkeys who have their food taken will suffer unprovoked violence. Additionally, female monkeys may be subject to sexual assaults. Among the many types of monkeys in such groups, macaques are the most frequent. However, macaque monkeys are mischievous and tend to cause disturbances. Their primary pursuits revolve around consuming, fighting, and mating. For instance, the macaques in Enmeshing frequently take food from students and provoke them whilst on campus. Furthermore, they regularly kill juvenile monkeys in their group, which is quite unpleasant.

Monkeys are charismatic, intelligent, and affectionate creatures, making them fascinating to observe. On the monkey's peach-shaped face, there are two eyes shining with golden light. Despite the nose being small and collapsed, the nostrils are large. Underneath, there is a large, pointed mouth covered in brown fur, resembling a fur coat. More strikingly, the monkey has a very glossy and red behind. When moving, it exhibits great agility, often bouncing, jumping and playing with its companions. Another sight to behold is that of an upside-down dragonfly on a tightrope that never fails to make us laugh. When engaged in play, the subject emits a loud, ear-piercing scream. It exhibits a tendency to immediately seize any food item nearby, be it a banana, bread, candy or any other such object, and then proceeds to run away as if there were not tomorrow until no other companion is in sight. During these bouts of feeding, its jaw moves in a manner akin to that of an elderly person with no teeth. It has even been observed to mimic human gestures while consuming its prey, thereby demonstrating its evolutionarily advanced intelligence. If there is a cigarette thrown in front of the animal, it extends its limb, grabs the cigarette, takes a big gulp, and occasionally climbs up and down or jumps around when hungry.

(Taken on 2023.11.02, photographer: SHI YIMAI)

Therefore, there is no consensus on the opinion towards monkeys among the UKM community.

Consequently, some students exhibit fondness towards these primates. According to Wu Yiwei, "My classmates endearingly refer to these monkeys as seniors, and occasionally provide them with snacks, which is a captivating experience." In a similar vein, Zhao Wenhao added, "If I do not catch a glimpse of them on campus, I feel a sense of emptiness. I am compelled to locate their whereabouts and engage with them."

(Taken on 2023.11.02, photographer: SHI YIMAI)

When humans and monkeys coexist on campus, occasional conflicts are inevitable. However, both humans and animals demonstrate mutual respect and strive to establish harmonious cohabitation. Have you had a chance to become reacquainted with these adorable primates? Welcome to UKM and let's explore together.

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