The “Temple Monkey” project studies 33 colonies of toque macaques. These macaques live in and around the ancient temple ruins in the Polannaruwa Nature Sanctuary and Reserve. The greatest threat to the monkeys is the destruction of their forest habitat. They are medium-sized monkeys that live in complex groups. The long term project goal is to understand the social structure of the monkey groups in an effort to understand these primates.
The 36 year study is led by Dr. Wolfgang Dittus who is assisted by colleagues and volunteers. It is one of the longest-running studies of primate behavior in the world. Through careful observation and data collection they have collected information on over 1,000 macaques. The research that is being done is helping scientists to understand more about the monkeys, their behavior, and what they need to survive. There are many behaviors that are remarkably similar to other primates – including humans – that help us understand more about ourselves as well.