A key component of wildlife photography is to know you subject (KYS). Knowing more about your subject will allow you to preempt situations and shots rather than reactively taking them. It will allow you to give more meaning to you images as you understand the significance of a situation better and will help you produce more individual images.

The following questions are designed to help in this situation, so great images can be created and no harm done. This is were Shreejata Gupta came in, my local monkey expert, who kindly helped us to Know Your Subject (KYS)! :) I hope you can use this information to get better images!

Read about Shreejata and her research here... 


Bonnet macaques Macaca radiata

How dangerous is the subject (0-10, 0 being a fluffy bunny, 10 being a rabid werewolf)?

Not dangerous at all, until you show them food! You have to be very careful around them though, as they are extremely agile and sneaky.

What is considered a safe distance to the subject?

There is no point in trying to keep a distance from monkeys, as they would approach you.

What are the ‘warning signs’ or situations that means it’s time to leave?

If they rush to you, show bared teeth (usually males), open their mouth in a round shape and growl – these are signals to back off.

How do you leave/escape safely?

If they show aggression, never run away. Just avoid eye contact.

What precautions are necessary in order to stay safe?

Don’t wear sunglasses around them. They want to see your eyes to gauge your motivation. Also, avoiding eye contact helps.

How do you know if you are stressing the subject and what is the appropriate response?

They will stop doing their usual business whatever they were doing, appear visibly restless, sometimes threat. Better to leave the ground slowly and steadily without eye contact. Never ever feed them. That induces stress in the monkeys to the extent of altering their social organisation, making them vulnerable to other threats.

Is there anything in particular we should not do (e.g. eye contact)?

Avoid eye contact and never feed.

How common is the subject or is it rare?

Very common in southern India only.

When are they most active? Time of day/season?

Throughout the year, usually 0600 am to 1800 pm.

How and where do you find them? Tips for spotting them?

All along the highways, tourist spots, villages (unfortunately).

What is the best way to approach the subject, if at all, as not to disturb it?

Approach as if you are not interested in them. Usually most of them are habituated to humans already.

How close can we typically expect to get to the subject?

As I said, it does not depend on you. They will choose to come towards you, anyway.

What kind of behaviours and situations would one expect to see and how would we recognise them?

Grooming, where they sit together and take out ticks from one another, Hugging and greeting grunts when meeting each other, huddling when they sleep, juveniles engage in various play activities, severe fights among males and females as well.

What behaviours/situations are considered rare and we should look out for?

Nothing in particular as such, if not encountering an inter-troop fight. Also, if not watching a wild boar hunt down a macaque and eat it alive.

What are their biggest threats? E.g. poaching, human-conflict, disease, habitat loss etc…

Human induced food provisioning.

Is there anything else we should know?

Monkeys are cool!

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