Are Monkeys Dangerous? Tips to Keep You Safe in Malaysia

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While traveling through Malaysia you will probably encounter the local monkeys. Here's how to see them safely from afar.


Monkeys in Malaysia Photo © iStock/alex_cherepenin

Like many other destinations throughout Asia, Malaysia has monkeys. They are cute and cheeky, but they are carriers of disease and accomplished thieves. Find out how to see them safely with these tips.

Photographing monkeys in Malaysia

Even if you aren't at all interested in photographing the monkeys on your trip, one will likely feature in your photos at some point. Monkeys roam around some of the most popular attractions in Malaysia such as temples, Penang Park, Batu Caves and the Botanical Gardens. It's difficult not to get a snap of them. They are cute, friendly-looking mischievous mammals that put on routine productions for travelers, whether they intend to or not. 

Keep in mind when getting snap happy around your favourite park or bowl of soup that monkeys have been know to snatch unattended cameras. They can also become aggressive if your flash is too close to their young. If you are an DSLR user, their reflection in the lens makes the monkeys feel as if they are being attacked, thinking their own grin is something of a threat to them.

Keep your distance from monkeys

Macaques are the most common breed of monkey in Malaysia and are carriers of many viruses and bacteria including the Herpes B virus and rabies. These viruses are harmless to the macaques, but not to humans if you're bitten!

Their mouths are teeming with bacteria, making even the smallest bite something to be investigated. Make sure you have the appropriate vaccinations before travelling and seek medical advice from the nearest hospital as soon as possible if bitten or scratched.

As cool as that selfie with the monkey may be for your holiday photo collection, it's best to give it a miss.

Should you feed the monkeys?

Long story short, no. Never feed wildlife – ever. These little guys look starving, although it is possible the 500 + travelers the hour before you have already stocked them up with fruit and nuts, and anything else they had in their backpacks at the time (whether it was given up voluntarily or not!). Don't be tempted to approach them with food in hand or sight.

Keeping your belongings safe

Some travelers report theft of valuables by the monkeys, to the extent of opening zippers on backpacks, camera bags and drink bottles (interestingly they're attracted by light reflecting in the water!).

To protect your valuables from theft put cable ties or a small padlock on your backpack zips. Better still avoid carrying a backpack at all as most places will discourage it.

Leave the bling behind at the accommodation. Monkeys are attracted to shiny and dangly things.

The key to monkey survival? If they do get a hold of your belongings don't fight them, drop anything they are trying to grab from you even if you do enjoy a game of tug of war, the monkeys will win and probably be disinterested in what you were fighting over anyway.

It's unlikely that you will have an unpleasant experience with the monkeys while in Malaysia, you're more likely to burn your tongue while slurping Assam Laksa in Penang Park. Saying that, you do always hear of that friend of a friend who's camera was snatched by a macaque.

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  • Robert topp said

    My Malaysian friend and I were charged at by an adult monkey on the beach on Pangkor Island
    We did not engage with the monkey at all before hand, we had tried to ignore them
    It looked very angry as it ran towards us and was also making a very loud noise and I thought it was going to bite us
    Luckily my friend screamed at the monkey as it got very close to us and it backed off
    We were both shaken by the incident and were very careful to stay well away after

  • Peter said

    Can you provide me with information on where I can interact with monkey in Malaysia, like Bukit Melawati

    Thank you

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