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"If it weren't for a
cheeky monkey named Naruto [umm, actually Ella], who,
as the story goes, stole a photographer's camera in an Indonesian park
and snapped a selfie,
crested black macaques might still be languishing in obscurity." Jennifer Holland, National Geographic, March 2017
(click on photo for National Geographic feature on the macaques)
David J Slater is the photographer and copyright holder of the iconic "Monkey Selfie".
Ella is the happy self-appointed representative of all living things. Visit Eearth to see a new way of viewing our planet.
A Personal Statement regarding the macaques in Sulawesi:
The crested black macaque is an extraordinary animal, but one that is severely threatened and need of urgent conservation.
Photographing and publicising their plight was the main driver when I visited the island.
When I first published the images in the UK, I had no idea of the storm that this would bring upon me. It wasn't just from Wikipedia and other agents seeking to use my work for their own cheap publicity, or those wishing to destroy both my property and personality rights to my work, but from the conservation community also.
Bringing this monkey to the attention of millions has had its downside, and that was one reason why I partnered with a macaque conservation group, Selamatkanyaki in 2014.
Not only did I raise money for the conservation project, through canvas sales kindly donated by Picanova and direct print sales, but I helped the group to promote a new code of ethics when visiting these macaques in Sulawesi. Sadly, I am told, the increased interest in these macaques has led to a huge increase in tourism in the area, with many hoping for a similar experience to the one I had.
I reject any thought that I did any harm in authoring these photographs, but things have now changed since I was there.
Close contact with these animals has now to be discouraged. Their habituation and fascination with humans can only lead to trouble. I know this because of the many examples that exist where human-animal contact leads to accidents, fear, and even possible disease communication.
I would urge anyone visiting these animals to abide by the ethical code that at least a 5 metre separation should exist between you and the macaques. Respect the wishes of the guides. This has also been agreed with the park authorities and other conservation bodies in the area such as the Macaca Nigra Project. 5 metres is nothing! You will still be able to get close up photos of these charismatic creatures with a fairly standard zoom lens.
I do believe that positive human experiences with animals is of great benefit to the long term conservation of any animal. It is not just science that paves the way to save animals but human experience too. But I would hate to learn that my actions of getting these monkeys to take their own photographs (ie. press a button) could harm them in the longer term. Please do not try and touch them now that these animals are in everyones thoughts.
David J Slater, September 2016
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