FAQ about our monkeys

I am now putting up a few facts for your information on the monkeys in Hong Kong.

• What do the monkeys in Hong Kong rely on for food ?

Most of the monkeys in Monkey Hill are probably descendants of native Macacas ( probably a subspecies of mulatta, first reported by the British colonists in the 19th century but had never been properly studied ) and introduced Macaca mulatta ( rhesus macaques ) officially from India and to a lesser extent Macaca fasicularis ( long-tailed macaques ) from Southeast Asia released privately. As such most of them are herbivorous though some of them may take the occasional insect and eggs, especially the long-tailed ones or hybrids of them. Fortunately these macaques from Southeast Asia are a minority for they are truly invasive and could wreak havoc with the native fauna – particularly avian species or else we won’t be hearing many pleasant chirps and calls of birds inside the country park that add to our enjoyment 🙂

There are not many species of edible leaves and fruits in the forest – may be a dozen of them, a published paper ( Fellowes, J.R., 1992. HK macaques: final report to the WWF HK projects committee. WWF, HK ) – could only consistently identified seeds of 12 plant species in faecal samples of macaques – Melodinus suaveolens, Schefflera heptaphylla, Garcinia oblongifolia, Elaeagnus tutcheri, Elaeocarpus sylvestris, Sapium discolor, Melastoma sanguineum, Ficus spp., Rhodomyrtus tomentosa , Mussaenda pubescens, Psychotria asiatica, Psychotria serpens.

Even the most powerful alpha male Skull Head is reduced to a bag of bones in winter 🙁

Only a few of them bear fruits all year round and they cannot support the entire population of wild monkeys attracted to live there over the years. The macaques at best could only have a modest bonanza in the fruiting seasons in summer and autumn annually. At other times they have to make do with leaves of which there are more choices and most of them are of really meagre nutritional value. ( Wong, C.,L., 1994. Studies on the feral macaques of HK. Unpublished Thesis. HKUST, HK )

And as my constant viewers have noticed they also put on a ” cheetos ” look in the lean winter months as they have to scrape by on the nectar of camellia oleifera as well 🙁

• How do they interact with humans ?

Despite our difference in size and the fact that most of us do not have a red face rhesus macaques do regard humans as conspecifics ( i.e. members of the same species ) and apply their system of facial signal communication to us. The problem is we don’t and few of us do have a clue. For instance we often misinterpret their grin with teeth ( silent bared teeth ) as a sign of aggression but in actual fact it means they are scared and is telling us to drop whatever we are doing to aggravate them. Most visitors however react by wielding their hiking stick to ward them off and in doing so the act sends them into a state of confusion as in their society a signal normally and usually will be reciprocated by an appropriate action – they often just retreat back into the thick undergrowth ( probably thinking we are too thick to understand ) in such an encounter but a rare few may become angry and show their anger and frustration with the ” open mouth stare ” – which may be silent or accompanied by a few harsh cackles to say they are truly pissed off and may even attack !

This is the submissive ” bared teeth ” expression !

Another common mistake is to glance them in the eyes and smile like we do in greeting each other. In their society there is no ” smile of greeting ” but only a smile of retreat as we bare our teeth briefly ( remember that grin with teeth is adopted by the submissive party as described above ) but the act of staring in the eyes, however brief is a contradictory act of aggression and so in the confusion a rhesus may act less friendly than expected !

This is another bared teeth grin though it may appear threatening to some 🙁

Normally for people who can’t be bothered to learn any of these etiquettes beforehand keeping a respectful distance ( at least two meters in my experience ) alone would usually be sufficient to stay out of trouble and most rhesus seldom make a fuss about our presence unless you decide to provoke them by starring into their eyes or make a sudden movement or a loud noise. Even then most rhesus are peaceable ( especially we are so much bigger in size ) and would just run away or do what they do in their society to appease an aggressive party – turning their head/body away or presenting their buttocks – the so-called rump-presenting 🙂

Never be as clueless as Dopey when you see rump-presenting !

Even if they do seem threatening ( recognised by their silent ” open mouth stare ” ) as a result of our untoward actions the last thing you want to do in my experience is backing off for this sends a wrong signal to them that they are the alpha and some of them would overcome their natural fear of our bigger size and charge at us with intent to show their dominance – a shove, a scratch or even a bite – hold your ground and take a step forward and they would normally just scurry away instead.

Things however get a bit trickier with food.

Most bachelor males are undernourished …
Even those belonging to a troop only do marginally better like this alpha from the defaced matriarch troop.

Most macaques are hungry all the time as there are seldom enough food for all of them in nature ( I really think all the forests in Hong Kong together could support only a few hundred monkeys ) and even so they do not “ attack “ unless provoked – and if ignorant visitors approach them like some petting animals with food or hikers inadvertently wander into them with items suggestive of food that’s when most incidents of grab and run happen – food is a strong incentive for them to overcome their fear of us – and in the process one might sustain at most a scratch and rarely a fall from a surprise ambush, nothing really serious and I have yet to hear a first case of Colles fracture as a result of a fall or zoonotic disease ( including the much dreaded cercopithecine herpes I aka herpes B virus  ) contacted from such an encounter if it had ever happened ! Anyway, it’s not an attack per se, I only see human tempting them there, knowingly or not.


It is actually very difficult to contact the deadly Herpes B virus in the wild. All 50 reported cases happened in a lab setting so far ! One is more likely to die from complications of a flu statistically speaking instead !

More serious physical contact usually happens when you are deemed as a danger to their young and if bluffing with a open mouth stare and a few harsh cackles doesn’t send the offender away you could get a shove, a scratch and rarely a bite if they don’t retreat first. To be fair such instances are again of a defence nature but I suppose it makes better headlines on a newsless day.

Mother of Lil Devil is very protective. Indeed all mothers are of their young ! Notice the open mouth stare here.

As Golden Hill Country park is very popular due to its close proximity and its reputation as the de facto ” Monkey Hill ” opportunities for things to go wrong between humans and their primate kin occur more frequently there or just outside it if the latter chooses to forage beyond the country park limit and wander into urban areas and villages.

Those people feeding them for fun with improper food and without much prior research are the cause of all these bad publicity when the animals turn out to behave less cute that they had imagined. Of the 756 documented human-macaque interactions over a 128 hr period with these casual feeders and visitors only one scratch was observed and the fault fell squarely on the human party – for kicking a monkey. ( Cheng, W.W., 2014. A review of the management of feral macaques in HK. Published thesis. HKU )

If we do some research beforehand and keep our distance it actually is very good fun to observe them in the wild.

• So what about the feeding ban ?

Feeding is banned within this area but in reality is almost unenforceable as there aren’t enough personnel on the ground. People come to feed especially in the main visitor car park but still one rarely sees any obese monkeys like those in Siam Reap !

Feeding monkeys is banned since 1999 with a fixed fine of 1,300 USD per offence. Meanwhile the authority had been reported in the past to have planted about 200,000 fruit trees ( mostly wild berries etc ) since 2001 across the park that hopefully would provide enough food for the monkeys living in or around Monkey Hill – the catch is however nobody knows how many of those seedlings survive to become trees or shrubs able to bear fruit and even if they do, the fruiting season lies mostly between May to October which means for large part of the year monkeys have no other option except to resort to begging and foraging along the road with some bolder ones even choosing to wander into nearby urban areas.

Venturing out is not an option for maimed ones like Stumpy here 🙁

The feeding ban is supposed to encourage monkeys to go back to foraging but if there isn’t enough provision in nature they have to go somewhere where food seems to be more readily available – residential blocks and rural villages ( very few nowadays as farming is almost extinct in HK, the few left are smallholders far away from Golden Hill ) in the vicinity of the country park. In fact since the ban reported macaque nuisance cases had steadily increased and shot up to a historic high of nearly 1400 incidents in 2006 and only came down with the introduction of a contraceptive program that began in 2008 which was subsequently called off in 2013 as it was too successful in curbing the growth of the monkey population. ( figures from AFCD ( Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department ) of HK between the year 2004 to 2013 )

Reddy with Dopey here – See how thin Reddy is in her summer coat 🙁

In my opinion a fed monkey does not bother. And a colony of monkey in a relatively small area is better than having them dispersed over a wider area because they have to forage. If the contraception measure is so successful and that the feeding ban is not helpful and it takes probably around 10-12 tonnes of food on a MONTHLY basis to sustain the population, ( 3.5 tonnes in 1990s for a population of 569 monkeys according to the study by Wong in 1994, current population is about 1,700 coming down from close to 2,000 in 2010 ) a tiny fraction of food averaging 3,500 tonnes Hongkongers wasted on a DAILY basis.

The matriarch Bossy doesn’t fare any better…

It probably makes more sense to have some form of managed feeding in place until the population has plummeted to such an extent that foraging alone is enough to satisfy their need.

• What is your position on feeding ?

I don’t agree with casual feeding and I disapprove of feeding them junk food. Feeding should be done by those who are equipped with the right knowledge and attitude and know when to stop so as not to discourage them from foraging in the wild. Most of the problem stems from people feeding them junk food for fun and once they acquire a taste for the sweet high caloric food with low nutritional value it’s very difficult to get them back on a natural diet. Besides they do make a mess with all those wrappers left behind.

If you want to feed them properly, take wholesome natural food like the Japanese authority does in Jigokudani (“Hell’s Valley”) with a combination of sweet potatoes and soybeans. They leave very little residues behind and any leftover would be readily taken by birds and other animals. The most appropriate months to help them out with food is between the months of October to March so as not to discourage them from foraging in the wild.

But now the monkeys are caught between a rock and a hard place – there isn’t enough food naturally nor is there enough feeding they are so accustomed to.

A drifter mother with a baby to raise usually does badly….

There are officially a dozen registered monkey feeders – these are individuals mostly senior citizens who have been befriending and feeding the monkeys for years, some nearly for a few decades and are exempt form the fine. Their licence is neither renewable nor transferrable which means that their numbers would dwindle with time. Ultimately the authority hopes that there would be no feeders left, registered or unregistered.

as are individuals who’re old and infirm. Sterilisation prolongs their life in the wild and more females will become like Nellie here…

Meanwhile the authority has sterilised close to 70 % of monkeys between 2008 and 2014 ( around 500 males have received chemical vasectomy while close to 1,100 females have either Spay-Vac or laparoscopic tubectomy ) and had succeeded in bringing the population down by 15 %. Nowadays juveniles account for less than 30 % of the population there and with infant mortality rate so high in the wild the population will continue to dwindle in the long run.

In fact the sterilisation is so extensive and indiscriminate a few troops are already on the brink of extinction from a combination of chronic malnutrition and in the near future from inbreeding.

Poor Valorie from the defaced matriarch’s troop succumbed to leontiasis ossea , probably from calcium insufficiecy 🙁

I hope the current policy is the result of some crazy overzealous bureaucrats who have eyes only for figures but my observation over the years I call HK home could only lead me to believe that everything the current unrepresented and undemocratic administration of HK does always has a hidden agenda behind. The administration doesn’t mind to manipulate figures to achieve its aims. Nature always become a casualty and a case in point is the near-wiping out of a unique colony of white dolphins living off the waters of Lantau island in HK. Land is at a premium and those closest to established urban area but currently off limits to developers due to various reasons will fetch the highest price. Monkeys and many wild animals have no say in it.

To recap :

• There are about 2,000 wild monkeys in HK.

• About 1,700 of them reside in Monkey Hill.

• They have to consume about 12 tons of food supplement monthly to sustain the population.

• Most of them, about 70% are sterile.

• Their population is decreasing as a result of human interventions.

• There are 7 million people in HK and increasing as 150 immigrants from China are allowed to settle in HK without screening every day for at least the last two decades.

• The government has to find enough landfill sites for the 3,500 tons of food Hongkongers wasted per day.

• As well as to find land to house these extra new Hongkongers and their dependents, which number close to a million since 1997 alone, excluding those who were granted residency under various schemes.

So who’s the more invasive and wasteful species on earth ?

Where do we stand ?

How many babies will Grandee sire this year ?

It will soon be the time of the year again with new members arriving in droves in Monkey Hill.

Last year we had a boom of baby girls 🙂

Indeed the first baby will probably arrive in less than 4 weeks’ time but the baby boom won’t start until a month or so later between June and July.

Baty born in May 2016

My bet again this year is that Dolly will pop the first baby and I’m pretty sure that it will look like either Baty and Spocky again with those big bat ears !

Spocky, brother of Baty born in May 2017. Yes, they both have big prominent ears 🙂

All rhesus macaques are promiscuous and one would assume that a male which plays no part in the upbringing of his offspring would probably has minimum bonding with his babies – but I was pleasantly surprised to find one exception and that is Grandee, one of the co-dominant alphas in our gang who took time to care for his babies born last year – Spocky and Vivy on several occasions. He’s probably better than some human dads and put them to shame !

Grandee with son Spocky
Grandee with daughter Vivy


Grandee is just one exceptional alpha male !

It’s always difficult to know who a baby’s father is – except those of Grandee. This year I’m preety sure though that Taggy, one of the lesser alpha males is the father to Gypsy’s baby if she’s indeed pregnant ! For the others I think we’ll never know 🙂

Got caught together Gypsy & Taggy on several occasions 🙂

My Channel on Youtube

Just a few words about my channel….

Most of my videos of monkeys of Monkey Hill in the early years were casually shot – I didn’t follow any particular individuals nor did I try to recognise any of them, I just filmed whatever came to me on my hikes. The only exception was Stumpy as he was what started me to take videos of monkeys more consistently and he has been my interest on and off since the fall of 2011 when I met him for the very first time.


The Story of Stumpy

I’ve never been a regular contributor on Youtube until I started to follow Baty and other babies in June 2016. It just happened on the spur of the moment as a thought came to me that maybe it’d be possible to follow a baby or two ( and the list subsequently grew but thank god the monkeys in Monkey Hill were never as prolific or I’d have to go full-time ). The fact is there were at least a few long lulls in my output – I was away for a whole year in 2012 and wasn’t back in HK until March 2013 and that year I only went back on a few occasions to make sure Stumpy was well. 2014 I was into rock climbing and I only visited Monkey Hill rarely. June 2015 saw my return to hiking past that area and I began to publish at a more regular interval – a mishmash of some old clips as well as more contemporary ones then.


This baby with otapostasis has gotten me into this mess >:(

As I could only have Wednesday night and Sunday each week to spend time on my footage my output is rather small and slow compared to many others and if I happen to visit the place twice a week in a row for several weeks then I become really behind with my schedule. At present it’s 8 weeks behind I’m afraid 🙁

As I work through my footage I begin to get a clearer picture of their society, how they interact and relate. Sometimes I’d connect the dots together with clues from footage I shot a good few years earlier and offer a possible explanation. Most of my knowledge of each individual is really a work of intelligent guess based on my observation but as I only see a tiny fraction of their life each week I may err and it has already happened quite a few times 🙁

Like the once infamous Baby-Snatcher – she’s turned out to be a loving mum 🙂
And Bossy Jr is actually a girl o_O’

I can’t control what comes to me nor do I want to engineer a situation to spice and sex things up. I treat my videos as a faithful representation of what happen on my hikes, they are like a hiking-logue to me in essence.

Hong Kong is blessed to have such a vast countryside as part of the city. It’s teeming with wildlife and for most Hongkongers nature is no more than a stone’s throw away. You’d have thought that they should have a better knowledge of their home turf but in actual fact few express any interest outside of work and for many of them the countryside is just a place to have fun – sometimes at the expense of the wildlife there 🙁

The cast

The Cast

The story starts with monkeys or else there won’t be a place called Monkey Hill in HK.

There are about 2,000 wild monkeys in HK of which about 1,700 call Monkey Hill their home nowadays.

There are about 30 different troops and the four most powerful of them all vie for the control of Golden Hill ( aka Kam Sham ) Road and the main visitor carpark area.

The four major players are known as Skull Head, Biggie, Thickie and Cleftie, of these I only really know Skull Head’s troop a bit better as his troop is often unavoidable on Golden Hill Road, the rest I got my information from the locals. Their abode is not fixed and they do roam in the mountains, sometimes to more remote places as well !

Where the four major troops are likely to be seen


Monkeys have been seen playing here before ! That’s a good 8 km from monkey hill !

Skull Head’s Troop

This troop is the most powerful of all the troops there and is between 400 to 600 strong with members drawn from Mr Seven’s original troop as well as defectors from the other three main troops. I have to admit I could count probably about a 100 of them each time I see Skull Head loitering around, the rest probably would appear from hiding in the trees I guess if someone dumps a truck load of goodies on the road.


I used to think this was Mr Seven until a local told me he hadn’t been seen for years, presumeably dead. Anyway that’s what a loser looks like 🙁

This troop has at least 10 lesser ɑ males who do Skull Head’s bidding. I really don’t see him fight often but he is one with such an imposing statue that all others will quietly back off when they see him.

He is about 12 years old now and has sired many offspring. The highest ranking females in his troop are his wives ( I believe there are two and they are twins ! ) and an older female with ectrodactyly who could be a senior female defected from Cleftie’s troop.

Whenever you see a member of his troop along Golden Hill Road you know it would be difficult to see any other troops as they would all go into hiding.

Biggie’s Troop

I’ve never seen this troop properly which numbers about a hundred but I’m sure I must have stumbled upon its members unknowingly. Before Skull Head’s arrival to the scene this troop boast the beefiest α male hence its name. Apparently since Skull Head’s ascension this particular troop has retreated to the woods in the nearby Jubilee Reservoir ( Shing Mun ) area. They do wander back to Golden Hill Road to feed from time to time though.

Thickie’s Troop

It’s so named because it is headed by a rather friendly male who would let feeders pet him. Because of his mild temperament people think he’s rather thick. He apparently has lost his territory to Skull Head and has been pushed to operate mainly in Eagle’s Nest Hill area east of Golden Hill Country Park and his troop is known to wander downhill into nearby residential blocks in Tai Wai to raid for food unfortunately 🙁

His troop nowadays give his folks a bad name….


Monkeys raiding apartment blocks in Tai Wai

Cleftie’s Troop

A dominant hereditary trait runs in the matrilineal line in this troop as all succeeding matriarchs have been noticed to have cleft hands ( echodactyly ) hence my nickname for this troop. They too have been pushed out by Skull Heads’s troop but they are luckier for they still retain control of the visitor car park area by Tai Po Road and I have to say they seem to be doing rather well there.


I think these females are related to this troop:)

The beautiful blond by the bus stop also belongs to this troop and as she has normal hands she can’t be very high-ranking in the troop !


She also belongs to Cleftie’s Troop 🙂

Other Lesser Cast

The rest are distributed into twenty odd smaller troops which number between a few ( yes , just a few !) to a few dozens.

The Ragtag Troop

This has to be the most pathetic group which originally counted on two individuals only – an overbearing matriarch and a rather lazy and beefy male known as Batman ( for his pointy high-set ears). They do have a few drifters who come to join them from time to time without much loyalty and certainly they don’t seem to be too willing to defend their leaders from other troops. Since last year this troop has taken Stumpy into its core leadership but he’s not actually very welcome for he’s probably related to the matriarch herself. Risk of inbreeding probably means Stumpy will eventually be ousted one day but as things go he’s still hanging around and to prove his worth he’a actually the one who does most of the fighting to defend their territory, however brief.

Because this troop isn’t a threat at all to anyone Skull Head’s troop seems to tolerate their hanging around and it’s quite amazing how sometimes one’d find the troika ( the matriarch, Batman and Stumpy ) along with a few haggard females waiting in the distance up the slope with Skull Head’s massive troop taking the road.

The drifter mum Lubby with her baby son Dubby seems to have now settled in with the Ragtag troop though I wish they hadn’t….

The Defaced Matriarch ( Löwina ) ’s troop

This was once a rather big troop and quite powerful too but they had been decimated by a combination of bad luck and indiscriminate human intervention.

Thinking about it I remember I used to run into them on my hiking trips there in the early days before I got interested into monkeys. Then came the animal abuse on the monkeys in 2011 when the once beautiful young strapping matriarch was attacked and became defaced in the incident. She and her troop seemed to have borne a big brunt from the abuses and has been weakened ever since. But then came the government sterilisation program and they seemed to have been targeted unfairly that left most of its females sterile and the final straw came when their head ɑ male was also nipped subsequently a year or so later. The defaced matriarch is one of the few odd females that are left fertile but it’s not going to reverse their fortune any more even if they are left to their own devices. The last baby born in that troop was back in 2014 I think their days are numbered.

Nowadays the defaced matriarch and her troop, about a dozen strong is so marginalised that they are only occasionally found in the grounds of the pavilion, away from most of the feeding.


A glimpse of them in this video…

The poor Valorie, a young female with leontiasis ossea who died last autumn was one of the very few fertile female left in this unfortunate troop.

Nora’s Troop

This troop normally occupies the beginning of the uphill part of Golden Hill Road near the dam. It was originally named as the ” Little Prince’s troop ” as its star is the matriarch ( Nora )’s baby son, born last May ( 2016 ) and has been called affectionately the Little Prince ( now known as Vince ) as compared to other babies born to this troop in the same period he’s obviously been doted on by everyone there, including another powerful figure, the senior female Granny.


My first encounter with this troop

There are about 30 members in this lesser troop and they are very protective of their juveniles, especially Little Prince and it’s difficult to film him without running into difficulty with the matriarch and her rather fierce troop members.

As he’s been so pampered and gotten to share more food than even other adults are allowed to he has become officially the chubbiest baby of Monkey Hill, and I bet he’s like a foul-mouthed Eric Cartman in life as well 🙂

The Little Devil’s Troop

I know even less about this troop but they do have a star as well – the rather devilish-looking baby with his fearsome matriarch mum. Their troop is usually found if at all just beyond the Pavilion at the top of Golden Hill Road. I suspect they actually wander here from the woods in Jubilee Reservoir a kilometre or so north.


My very first encounter with Lil Devil

I have yet to be certain who the α male is in this troop but their matriarchs are unmistakable as there are two and they are likely to be twins and Little Devil like his counterpart, the Little Prince is also very pampered but as they are way out from most of the feeding they do look rather undernourished most of the time.

This just tells you how vital Golden Hill Road which brings lots of visitors and goodies to the monkeys living around the area is.

Bossy’s Troop

By pure chance this is the troop I film most frequently as the thought of following a monkey baby stemmed from this troop when I first met baby Baty there last May. Led by a rather young alpha male named Cocky and an older female known as Bossy this troop and particularly its babies are often featured in my videos. Numbering around 40 to 50 member strong Bossy’s troop could bully other smaller troops and it would often sneak in to fill any vacant slot along Golden Hill Road when Skull Head’s troop isn’t looking.

Dopey could draw a crowd 🙂

To learn more of this troop and its babies , please follow this link 🙂

360° tour of Monkey Hill

Over sixty 360° photos taken over a span of 2 years and assembled painstakingly to form this immersive tour, you will be shrunken to their size and see their world the way they do. Some of the cast you probably have met them on my channels and now you’d almost see them in person. Take a break and teleport yourself to Monkey Hill in Hong Kong 🙂

In case you want to check out your bearing relative to the major landmarks of HK please watch the first 3 minutes or so of this video about our babies from 2016 !


Get to know some of our cast in this video as well !

And if you have some time to spare, don’t forget to visit another tour of mine -” Hong Kong form 0 m to 554 m a.s.l. ” as this will give you a better insight into the city our gang calls home 🙂