For These Monkeys, It’s a Fight for Survival

On their Indonesian island, crested black macaques are hunted for meat, kept as pets, and threatened by a shrinking habitat. Can they be saved?

If it weren’t for a cheeky monkey named Naruto, 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.

The photo later went viral, and Macaca nigra suddenly had millions of online fans just as the International Union for Conservation of Nature, which sets the conservation status of animals, was working toward listing the punk-haired, amber-eyed species as among the world’s 25 most endangered primates.

In 2015 Naruto’s selfie sparked a copyright lawsuit including the animal welfare group People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals—since the monkey took the shot, does he own it?—which could push the boundaries of animal rights. But Naruto’s renown hasn’t earned him special cred with his fellow macaques in the confined forests of the Tangkoko-Batuangus-Duasaudara Nature Reserve, near Bitung, on the island of Sulawesi.

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