Eva Hejda But the scientists noted that when they were nearby to the study site, something curious happened. The monkeys, who have seen field researchers in their habitat before, would take a larger portion of food, including food from the lower levels, closer to the ground.
According to the researchers, they became the equivalent of "human shields" against predators -- they felt safer with humans near at hand.
"Researchers are probably perceived as shields against terrestrial predators in particular, and we speculate that the observed patterns may be due to humans passively deterring leopards from the immediate area, rather than playing the role of active sentinels," lead researcher Katarzyna Nowak told Mongabay.
This clever behavior is certainly not consistent for other monkey species -- especially those that are hunted by humans. Naturally, these species are fearful of humans just like samango monkeys are of leopards. But in this case, samango monkeys have provided a rarely-seen phenomenon in the animal kingdom -- similar to the idea of "breaking the fourth wall" in theater, the phenomenon shows that the barrier between animals and the people that study them is still a tenuous one.