The acquisition and training of monkeys to perform is a centuries-old tradition in South Asia, resulting in a large number of rhesus macaques kept in captivity for this purpose. The performing monkeys are reportedly collected from free-ranging populations, and may escape from their owners or may be released into other populations. In order to determine whether this tradition involving the acquisition and movement of animals has influenced the population structure of free-ranging rhesus macaques in Bangladesh, we first characterized the source of these monkeys. Biological samples from 65 performing macaques collected between January 2010 and August 2013 were analyzed for genetic variation using 716 base pairs of mitochondrial DNA. Performing monkey sequences were compared with those of free-ranging rhesus macaque populations in Bangladesh, India and Myanmar. Forty-five haplotypes with 116 (16 %) polymorphic nucleotide sites were detected among the performing monkeys. As for the free-ranging rhesus population, most of the substitutions (89 %) were transitions, and no indels (insertion/deletion) were observed. The estimate of the mean number of pair-wise differences for the performing monkey population was 10.1264 ± 4.686, compared to 14.076 ± 6.363 for the free-ranging population. Fifteen free-ranging rhesus macaque populations were identified as the source of performing monkeys in Bangladesh; several of these populations were from areas where active provisioning has resulted in a large number of macaques. The collection of performing monkeys from India was also evident.
Keywords: Bangladesh; Bedey; Performer; Performing monkey; Rhesus macaque.