Sugar-mad monkeys of Thailand take over. Echoes of Planet of the Apes.

NEWS AND COMMENT- LOPBURI, THAILAND: In echoes of a prequel to the well-known film the Planet of the Apes the macaque monkeys of Lopburi in Thailand have broken out of their temple and are causing mayhem in the town, forming gangs and fighting over territory all as a result of Covid-19 placing restrictions on tourism.

Sugar-mad monkeys of Lopburi harass a photographer

Sugar-mad monkeys of Lopburi harrass a photographer. Photo: JACK TAYLOR/AFP/GETTY IMAGES

Recently I wrote about the rise of the monkeys in the Indian state of Maharashtra. In that state, monkey behaviour is also evocative of the film Planet of the Apes. They’ve not quite got to the point where they rule the roost as in the film but they are fearless of people and in some senses dominant to humans. Click here to read that article.

Now, the same thing is happening in Thailand. Monkeys are taking over the ancient Thai city of Lopburi. They’ve occupied the temple in this ancient city for generations. This 13th century temple has been their fiefdom with its red-brick ruins and grassy grounds. They were a tourist attraction.

Before the Covid pandemic tourists flocked there and fed them. They would pose for selfies with the tourists. Many Thais believe that they are descendants of the monkey god Hanuman and are therefore holy.

This reputation has protected them under the current extreme circumstances. Because there are almost no tourists in Thailand at present because of the pandemic, the monkeys have not been fed. And in the past, they were fed with sugary foods to which they appear to have become addicted. And now these sugar-mad monkeys are breaking out in aggressive displays of territory grabbing. They are displaying a disdain for human property. They appear fearless. They have occupied an abandoned cinema next to the temple.

Humans cannot venture too close to this base for the monkeys for fear of being attacked. Inside the building the monkeys use the projector room as a sort of mausoleum for their dead.

They are causing mayhem in Lopburi. Groups of monkeys are running amok forming rival gangs battling the territory. Some local people have barricaded themselves in their homes. Others have armed themselves with catapults and airguns to try and scare them off. They don’t want to kill them because they are venerated. Although this attitude is wearing thin.

They steal human possessions such as keys and smart phones. The Times reporter (source of this article), Philip Sherwell, said that there was no escaping them. They clambered all over him as he interviewed local people. They tried to grab his glasses. And they snatched hand sanitiser from his bag after he had left a pocket open.

The monkeys are famous for their sex drive. The males are demonstrating their virility. They are breeding like wildfire. This adds to the chaos. There are echoes of the film the Planet of the Apes. It is almost like a prequel to that film. Let this go on for much longer and the monkeys will take over and start to dominate the humans. The humans would move out ?. Is this persecuted nature getting back at unthunking humans?

The veneration of the monkey is waning in this part of Thailand because they’ve become a pest and a nuisance. One local, Suthip Panthawong, 67, said that her car parts business on the main street had become a base to be fought over by rival gangs. She said:

“Their behaviour is certainly changing. They are not just fighting for food. They are fighting each other for territory. We have to accept that this is their habitat as much as ours.”

The government has launched a sterilisation programme to reduce their numbers. About 500 monkeys have been neutered during the past 12 months but it appears to have had little effect.

There are now proposals to move the monkeys out of Lopburi to a new sanctuary outside the city and to leave a core number at the temple. Villagers living near the proposed area to which they going to be moved have objective being fully aware of the chaos that they have caused in the town.

Hissing and scuffles break out among the monkeys over food thrown from passing cars. An indication of mass gang fights to come. Their presence has become a deterrent to tourists if and when they return after Covid restrictions are lifted. Some people think that it is going to get worse.

In past times, Lopburi was once a royal capital. In the 17th-century barges carried European delegations upriver to the palace. And later on, the monkeys in the ruins of Phra Prang Sam Yod temple were a tourist attraction. Tourism boomed with the macaques helping to put Lopburi on visitors’ maps. At that time the monkeys were promoted as the town’s symbol.

Now the whole thing has gone belly up and the monkeys are taking over.

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