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By Mineral Products Association

How much harm is plastic waste doing to macaques?

Revolution Plastics Institute

3 min read Partner content

New study aims to understand the effects of plastic waste on endangered monkeys

A new research project has begun to investigate the effects of plastic pollution on Sulawesi moor macaques, an endangered and protected species of monkey native to Indonesia. 

Led by a team of international researchers from the University of Portsmouth and Universitas Hasanuddin, this study aims to understand the extent of macaques’ interaction with plastic waste and how local communities perceive this contact. 

Despite the extensive attention given to marine plastic pollution, little is known about its impact on terrestrial wildlife, particularly in regions like Indonesia which is both a major plastic waste producer and a biodiversity hotspot. The project represents a global first in examining the relationship between macaques and plastic pollution. 

Dr Teresa Romero, from the Department of Psychology at the University of Portsmouth, says: “We know surprisingly little about plastic distribution in terrestrial environments and its impact on wildlife. This project seeks to fill that gap by examining how macaques interact with plastic pollution.”

The research - conducted in collaboration with in-country partners - will involve direct observations, live monitoring and the use of cameras to study macaques’ behaviour around plastic waste. The data gathered will help document the extent of wildlife-waste interactions and assess the level of plastic pollution within the macaques’ home range.

"We know surprisingly little about plastic distribution in terrestrial environments and its impact on wildlife. This project seeks to fill that gap by examining how macaques interact with plastic pollution."

– Teresa Romero, Senior Lecturer in Psychology

Dr Risma Maulany, from the Forestry Faculty at Universitas Hasanuddin (Makassar, Indonesia), says: “This project will help us to understand the effect of plastic pollution on wild animals, which is needed to develop effective conservation plans to protect the wildlife and environment.”

The next phase of the project will involve working closely with local communities to develop interdisciplinary arts-based methods aimed at raising awareness about plastic pollution and promoting conservation efforts. These interventions will be co-designed with trusted local organisations and tailored to address the specific social and cultural contexts of the communities involved. 

Dr Cressida Bowyer, Deputy Director of the Revolution Plastics Institute at the University of Portsmouth says: “Bringing the community into the conversation is crucial for fostering sustainable solutions to plastic pollution. By understanding local perceptions and leveraging community engagement, we can work towards effective waste management policies and conservation initiatives. 

“Our goal is not only to understand the impact of plastic pollution on macaques but also work with local communities to take action. Through working together, we can create meaningful change and protect both wildlife and human well-being.”

"Bringing the community into the conversation is crucial for fostering sustainable solutions to plastic pollution."

– Cressida Bowyer, Deputy Director of the Revolution Plastics Institute

With Indonesia facing critical waste management challenges, particularly in coastal areas like Sulawesi, this research has the potential to inform policy decisions and drive change at the local and national level. By working together across disciplines and borders, researchers are paving the way for a more sustainable future for both wildlife and communities. 

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