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A Gang of Pickpocket Monkeys Has Taken Over a Bali Temple

A temple on Indonesia’s popular island of Bali is currently plagued by a gang of kleptomaniac primates.

According to Smithsonian Magazine, visitors of the Uluwatu Temple in Bali have reported many incidents of theft by the local primate population. These critters sneak up on travelers and snatch anything they can get their hands on: phones, cameras, sunglasses and even hotdogs.

New Scientist reports that the creatures are long-tailed macaques, a species of monkey indigenous to Indonesia. However, this brazen behavior is only observed in the pack of macaques living at this specific temple.

Primatologist Fany Brotcorne of the University of Liège in Belgium and a research team recently conducted a study on the primates’ criminal behavior, published in the journal Primate. They were looking into reasons why the macaques have developed this “robbing and bartering” system.

“Robbing and bartering is a behavioral practice anecdotally reported in free-ranging commensal macaques,” Brotcorne wrote in the study. “It usually occurs in two steps: after taking inedible objects, such as phones and sunglasses, from humans, the macaques appear to use them as tokens, returning them to humans in exchange for food.”

Further observation shows that groups of monkeys in the study that spent more time around tourists steal more frequently, leading researchers to believe that the criminal activity is a “cultural tradition,” one that the monkeys learn from one another and pass on to younger generations. This was confirmed when a new group of macaques was moved into the area. After a while, they also started to extort tourists for snacks.

[Photo via Gizmodo]

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