There are ethical reasons why this leaves me with a dilemma, you see today I went and sat with the Macaques down at the monkey temple and I fed them with bananas, coke and water. These though are wild animals and they have got so used to human beings that they interact with us, taking food from us and generally enjoying a free lunch.
My dilemma though is one of ecological ethics. What upsets me is that the animals are treated as an income for the local tourist guides who then leave rubbish, plastic bags and other detritus just laying around. I lost count of the number of pieces of broken glass I saw. The guides do not seem to appreciate that these animals are delicate, wild and potentially dangerous, especially when they encourage tourists to put pieces of fruit on their heads so that the monkeys will then climb up to eat.
However, as much as I try to stand on the moral high ground over the rights and wrongs of introducing extra food into an area that is ultimately limited in the number of species it can maintain, I cannot deny that what happened to me today was emotionally and spiritually moving. I felt a connection to another species of animal that chose of its own freewill to sit with me and "break bread" so to speak. Being so close to such a beautiful species was both breath taking and saddening. Seeing the animals trying to eat plastic bags felt so wrong, but feeling the touch of that gentle but strong hand as it gripped my finger while reaching for a banana with the other hand will stay with me for a very long time.
These animals are not stupid, they are clearly exploiting the system here for their own benefit, they have learned that human beings are a source of easy and nutritious food. Yet this does not sit easy with all of them as some will show signs of aggression as they take the food. As tourists, we are both part of the problem and and part of the solution. Our need to see animals is what draws the guides here to make money and in return their need to make money is what ensures that the local wildlife is safe. I am just glad that most of us have moved on from the desire or want to dress in animal pelts.