Bertrand, D. A., Berman, C. M., Heistermann, M. et al. 2023. Effects of tourist and researcher presence on fecal glucocorticoid metabolite levels in wild, habituated Sulawesi crested macaques (Macaca nigra). Animals 13(18), 2842.

Ecotourism managers and researchers often assume that apparently habituated primate groups no longer experience adverse consequences of prolonged exposure to tourists or researchers. We examined the effects of tourists and researchers on fecal glucocorticoid metabolite output (FGCM) in three critically endangered, wild crested macaque (Macaca nigra) groups in Tangkoko Nature Reserve, Sulawesi, Indonesia. We assayed FGCM from 456 fecal samples collected from thirty-three adults. Tourists can walk through and among macaque groups freely. Hence, we examined the possible effects of tourists both (1) in the reserve when away and not interacting with the study groups and (2) when they were present within the macaque groups. Generalized Linear Mixed Model (GLMM) analysis indicated that when tourists were present in the forest, but not directly among the macaques, FGCM levels in the macaque tourism groups were higher in months with more tourists. When tourists were among the macaque groups, some female macaques experienced rises and subsequent postexposure decreases in FGCM levels, consistent with predictions for acute stress. Male FGCM levels increased with tourist numbers within the group. Nevertheless, they were not significantly different from levels during undisturbed or postexposure conditions. FGCM responses related to researchers in groups varied by group, sex, and tourist presence. However, the temporal patterning of FGCM responses showed little evidence of chronic stress from tourism at this site.