In many places monkeys have lost their fear of humans and become real pests. They raid agriculture fields; hassle car drivers; beg for food; and steal it of they get a chance. Monkey at hill station are notorious for swiping clothes and robbing picnic baskets. In some places they even steal eye glasses and wallets. Most are macaques.Most of their time their aggressive poses and teeth-revealing expressions are bluffs meant to intimidate. Male monkeys seem to enjoy harassing women more than men apparently as a way of showing off. Sometimes they bite and sometimes they carry nasty diseases.

In November 1998 The Telegraph, reported: “A thousand hungry monkeys have gone on the rampage through houses, shops and restaurants in northern Thailand after the recession-hit district council ran out of funds for their customary food handouts. Villagers have been woken at night by whole families of monkeys turning over their kitchens, while diners have seen their food stolen from their plates. Following a drought, there has been no extra rice for the macaque monkeys, which had grown dependent on regular supplies from villagers. The Rasi Salai council told a delegation of the monkeys' victims that it could not afford to buy extra rice from outside. [Source: Alex Spillius, The Telegraphy Bangkok

Troublesome Snow Monkeys

Snow monkeys sometimes raid farms, eating things like soybeans, watermelons, mushrooms, sweet potatoes, potatoes and mushrooms. Each year snow monkeys destroys about 5,000 hectares of farmland, costing farmers $6 million. The total damage caused by monkeys in 2006 was estimated at ¥1.63 billion.

Some snow monkeys make forays into towns and occasionally trash Shinto Shrines. The snow monkeys around the town Odawara are notorious for sneaking into homes and shops to steal tangerines, sweet potatoes and candy bars. One man told AP, "They came right into my house. My wife tried to scare them with a mop, but they chased her all the way to the train station."

In June 2009, a single monkey cut off power to 7,000 household in Aomori Prefecture. The monkey was found unable to move with burns on its hands and legs at a circuit breaker box. It is believed it received a severe jolt when it touched the box and that caused a short circuit and power failure.

Many researchers blame human forestry for aggressive monkey behavior. The mono forests that cover many areas are void of food, leaving the monkeys with no choice but to look for food in human-occupied areas. Some also say the declining population in villages is a factor as there are fewer people to watch over the farms and prevent monkey raids.

See Snow Monkeys in the Japan section under Nature.

Monkey Thieves

The snow monkeys around the town Odawara in Japan are notorious for sneaking into homes and shops to steal tangerines, sweet potatoes and candy bars. One man told AP, "They came right into my house. My wife tried to scare them with a mop, but they chased her all the way to the train station."

In Nikko and others places with many tourist, monkeys are known for breaking into cars are stealing food. Sometimes they confront people and don’t leave until they have been given a banana or some other such goodies. In Nikko there is one monkey that positions itself in road and leaps on the hood of any car that stops demanding food. Other try to leap through open windows of cars going up to 20mph. Sometimes packs surround tourists and snatch stuff out of their hands. In residential areas, people are afraid to leave the windows of their homes open or let their children walk unescorted to school out of fear of what monkeys might do.

In Gunma Prefecture gangs of monkeys have broken into homes to steal food and attacked children walking to elementary school, running off with their snacks. Monkeys there invaded one home and stole vegetables and threw tiles off the roof.

The New York Times reported: “Rhesus monkeys are also artful dodgers. “There’s a long set of studies showing that the monkeys are very good at stealing from us,” said Laurie R. Santos, an associate professor of psychology at Yale University. Reporting in Animal Behavior, Dr. Santos and her colleagues also showed that, after watching food being placed in two different boxes, one with merrily jingling bells on the lid and the other with bells from which the clappers had been removed, rhesus monkeys preferentially stole from the box with the silenced bells. “We’ve been hard-pressed to come up with an explanation that’s not mentalistic,” Dr. Santos said. “The monkeys have to make a generalization — I can hear these things, so they, the humans, can, too.” [Source: Natalie Angier, New York Times, December 22, 2008]

Troublesome Highway Monkeys

In November 2004, the BBC reported: “Some weeks ago nearly 2,000 marauding monkeys were captured in two towns in the northern hill state of Himachal Pradesh and relocated to forests. Following the success of that operation, forest department officials have now decided to do the same along the 90km-long Kalka-Simla national highway and release them in the wild. [Source: Baldev Chauhan, BBC, November 19, 2004]

"Monkeys have become a nuisance for motorists, mostly tourists. They are also causing large-scale damage to crops along the winding road in Solan and Simla districts through which the highway runs," says state wildlife chief AK Gulati. Experts along with wildlife officials are expected to begin the operation shortly. "According to the latest count, some 2,035 monkeys reside along the Kalka-Simla highway. "Our effort will be to shift as many simians as we can as they are a traffic hazard and sometimes cause accidents," Mr Gulati said.

The move followed an order of the high court after complaints that the monkeys were becoming a menace. Officials say the monkeys attacked anyone carrying food, rummaged through dustbins and littered the place while people looked on helplessly. There have also been growing cases of monkey bites in the state capital, Simla, which is a popular tourist resort.

But the wildlife department's moves have invited the ire of animal lovers. "The method of capturing them in cages and keeping them locked for long periods before releasing them is highly crude and causes a lot of trauma to the animals," says Rajeshwar Singh Negi. "Even if relocation of monkeys helps get rid of them from towns, we have already seen that new troops have entered the town in recent weeks," Mr Negi told the BBC. "Relocation could also help spread diseases caused by monkeys from area to another," he said.

Some people believe that a more effective way of dealing with the menace would be to sterilise the monkeys instead of moving them from place to place. But wildlife officials are nervous about taking that step since such a large-scale sterilisation of monkeys has never been carried out so far. "The final decision regarding sterilisation of monkeys would be taken after an in-depth study of similar operations elsewhere," said Mr Gulati.

"So far we have not got any negative feedback about the relocation of the 1,900 monkeys. But the impact would be seen on a six-monthly census to be carried out next month," said the wildlife chief. The wildlife department also wants the central government to fund a project to check monkey menace in the entire state. The state has spent around 2.1 million rupees ($47,000) so far.

The first ever count of monkeys in Himachal Pradesh was undertaken in December last year. It revealed that the state has 378,860 monkeys. Langurs, the larger black-faced primates number 55,180 with females outnumbering males.

Urban Monkeys

Monkeys are as common as squirrels in some Asian cities, particularly in India, Thailand, Sri Lanka and Indonesia. They hang beside roads in the country and squat in the shade in train stations. Most are macaques and many are regarded as pests. They raid trash cans, steal ice cream cones from children, climb around on telephone and electric wires. Sometimes they get electrocuted when they touch frayed electric lines.

The monkeys often use temples as their home base because there they are protected and often fed and pampered. From the temples they radiate out. In the past many lived at temples with nearby forest in which they could retreat but now these temples have been swallowed up by urbanization and the only place they go is into the city.

"Once they get into human habited areas, initially they are shy," one monkey authority told AFP. "At that time people make the mistake of feeding the monkeys. Monkey's being smart, they soon give up their shyness and start demanding food. When they do that people don't take to them anymore. So the monkeys start entering houses, start opening refrigerators and take away food”.

Monkeys like urban areas because they have easy access to shelter, large trees, abundant food and water. In some cities their populations have exploded because the monkeys can get a hold of enough food to support such a large population. In some places the monkey are seriously obese. In other places their population are more stable apparently because their numbers are kept in check by disease and a limited food supply.

Monkeys on the Rampage In India

In December 1998, The Telegraph reported: “Several people were injured as a horde of monkeys stormed into Srinagar, the winter capital of Kashmir, and attacked anyone who tried to cross their path. Apparently driven by hunger from the nearby jungle, where temperatures have fallen to freezing point, the monkeys raided restaurants, hotels, fruit and tea shops, houses and government offices in search of food. Shrieking menacingly, they barged into an old royal palace and ransacked it and the adjoining state government offices. J N Sathu, Srinagar [Source: Electronic Telegraph Report of December 28, 1998

In March 1998, Ananova reported: “Indian monkeys are running riot and no-one will complain because of myths surrounding the animals. The town of Noida in Uttar Pradesh is under siege from monkeys who raid fridges, uproot gardens and attack hospitals, pets and people. However, due to the myths associated with the animals, no one wants to make a complaint, according to a local forest ranger. One incident in a hospital saw monkeys chase a patient and attendants out of a room. A security guard had to be called in to scare the monkeys out by banging a large stick on the floor. In another incident, the monkeys pulled a heavy lid off a water tank and let it fall on a car below, severely damaging the vehicle. Some people are said to feed the monkeys just to help keep them at bay, reports the Times of India. "The importance of monkeys in the Indian mythology makes people virtually invite them and offer them food. The monkeys here have almost taken free meals for granted," said forest ranger Bhoodev Panwar. Panwar claims the monkeys even send out scouts to check out possible raids and once they locate one, they bring several other monkeys along. [Source: Ananova, March 6, 2011]

Monkeys Raid Chandigarh Business District

In December 2004, TNN reported from Chandigarh: Monkeys “gathered and played havoc in Sector 10 for full four hours, even as the bewildered residents turned in vain to everybody, including the police, fire department and wildlife authorities. The simians lived up to their reputation as they went about ravaging the orchards and gardens and pulling out the roots and bulbs of ornamental flowers. The helpless old couples living in the sector were particularly terrified. Telephone cables of a couple of houses were also snapped in the mayhem. [Source: TNN, December 11, 2004]

Attacks by monkeys are not uncommon in this area, but Thursday's attack was unprecedented. Nihal Singh, talking about her ill septuagenarian husband (house number 590) said she was planning to take him to a doctor. "I came out and discovered these monkeys occupying positions all over our house. They were jumping over the roof and making loud thuds. I cannot move fast and thus I played loud music to chase them away, but to no avail. Then these monkeys became aggressive and spoiled our garden.They started throwing stuff towards us, beating and showing teeth in anger," she said.

With no other option left, she frantically dialled the Sector 11 police station. But the reply she got was "It is not our job. Call up fire brigade." So she dialled the fire brigade number and got the reply: "Old lady! Call the wildlife or forest officials." And so, Nihal Singh called up the forest and wildlife officials. But to her utter disappointment, they said, "Our vehicle has gone somewhere. We will send people to your place as soon as it comes back." She waited in vain for the elusive vehicle, but certainly not the monkeys. After ruining the neighbourhood and petrifying the old couples, the monkeys made a safe exit. "I thought they will come with shotguns and tranquillisers in no time, but I am amused they cannot even protect us from monkeys," she rued, adding that the monkeys tore to shreds all the clothes lying outside.

Another old man took out his shotgun to scare the monkeys, but was himself too scared to fire thinking that he might violate some law and get booked for the same. "Oh that was an invasion and the monkeys came in families. This is not the first such instance, but they are becoming more and more daring with each passing day.

”Vampire Monkeys” Attack Temple

In November 2004, AP reported: “Monkeys lurking at an ancient Hindu temple in India's northeast have attacked up to 300 children over three weeks, temple officials said. "They hide in trees and swoop on unsuspecting children loitering about in the temple premises or walking by, clawing them and even sucking a bit of blood," Bani Kumar Sharma, a priest at the Kamakhya temple in Assam state, told The Associated Press. The temple, one of the most famous in India, is located in Gauhati, Assam's capital. [Source: König Prüß, AP, November 2, 2004]

"I was returning home from school when a monkey suddenly pounced on me, scratched my head and hand and pushed me to the ground," said Jolly Sharma, a 6-year-old girl. At least 2,000 rhesus monkeys roam in and around the temple, but none had shown aggressive behavior in the past, the priest said.

While occasional attacks by monkeys are not uncommon at temples, the sudden surge in attacks at the Gauhati temple has experts perplexed. Some say the Gauhati monkeys may be turning violent because of shrinking living spaces, or because animals once kept as pets might not have been able to adjust to new lives around the temple."The loss of habitat due to increased human settlement in the hills around the temple and the release of monkeys kept confined at home ... could be among the reasons for some of the monkeys behaving in a weird manner," said Narayan Mahanta, a wildlife official in Gauhati.

Three monkeys were randomly tranquilized by wildlife officials over the weekend and have been taken to the Gauhati Zoo where they will be examined in search of clues to explain the changing behavior, Mahanta said.

Troublesome Urban Monkeys in Delhi

Monkeys run wild in Delhi. They make trouble by breaking into homes, stealing food from refrigerators, taking clothes off drying lines, damaging television antennas, making loud noises and destroying property. Sometimes they attack pedestrians. They like to break into offices at night and search through files for food. Monkey have even broken into the Presidential Palace and the defense ministry, destroying and stealing files. On his visit to the Amber Fort in Delhi, U.S. President Bill Clinton was ambushed by a bunch of monkeys. He discovered later they were attracted by his flower lei. "Once I deflowered they weren't interested in me," he said.

Estimates of Delhi's monkey population range from 10,000 to over 20,000. Monkeys can be found in residential buildings and government offices and bite around a dozen people every day. Conservationists say deforestation around Delhi has driven monkeys from their natural homes into the capital.

The police refuse to help, saying monkeys are not their responsibility. Monkeys are protected by the high status given them because of the association with Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God. Some monkeys have been rounded up and relocated to forests near Delhi. An effort to drive the animals away with high frequency sounds and traps failed.

Julian West wrote in The Telegraph: “Monkeys have plagued Delhi's government offices and private houses for several years, raiding fridges, snapping power lines and taking free bus rides. Recently, though, the problem has become almost uncontrollable and several million rhesus monkeys swarm over the capital. At least 10,000 have taken up residence in South Block. The army chief and his officers, as well as senior civil servants at adjoining ministries, now sit in caged rooms after files containing top secret documents were found strewn in corridors and power cables to computers containing sensitive data were snapped. [Source: Julian West, The Telegraph, April 15, 2001]

Visiting ambassadors have been threatened by screeching primates swinging down from the trees. An army major was hospitalised for rabies injections after a female bit him, and staff at the foreign ministry contracted jaundice after a monkey drowned in the water tank. Elsewhere in Delhi, monkeys have stolen whisky from alcohol vendors, power supplies have been disabled and, last year, a man died when monkeys dropped a flower pot on his head.

Monkeys on the Rampage in Delhi

In November 2007, AFP reported: “Just weeks after the Indian capital's deputy mayor toppled to his death fighting off a pack of monkeys, the animals are back on the attack, sparking fresh concerns about the simian menace.One woman was seriously hurt and two dozen other people were given first aid after monkeys rampaged through a neighbourhood in east Delhi over the weekend. "There were about three or four monkeys involved," deputy police commissioner Jaspal Singh told AFP. [Source: AFP, November 12, 2007]

"Wildlife officials are trying to find them. As police we're not experts in dealing with monkeys. We can deal with mad bulls but monkeys are more difficult," he said. Along with an estimated 35,000 sacred cows and buffaloes that roam free in the capital, marauding monkeys have been longstanding pests.They routinely scamper through government offices, courts and even police stations and hospitals as well as terrorise neighbourhoods.

Trouble boiled over in late October when the city's deputy mayor, Sawinder Singh Bajwa, 52, fell to his death driving away monkeys from his home. He was on his balcony reading a newspaper when four monkeys appeared, his family said. As he waved a stick to scare them away, he tumbled over the edge and died in hospital from head injuries.

In the latest incident in Delhi's low-income Shastri Park area, residents reported the monkeys appeared and rampaged for hours. "I was talking to someone at my door at around 11 pm when a monkey appeared," Naseema, who goes by one name, told the Times of India. "As I moved inside, the monkey followed and sank its teeth in my baby's leg." Six more bites were reported Monday in Shastri Park, while in an upscale neighbourhood in central Delhi, a rogue monkey bounded into the residence of Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, The Indian Express said. Animal control officers were deployed to chase the beasts away.

Monkey Control in Delhi

In 2001 residential districts petitioned courts to make Delhi "monkey-free."In 2003, the Delhi government declared all out war on the troublesome monkeys and the Supreme Court issued a decree to make the city monkey-free. Special patrols set up to drive away monkeys had their efforts compromised by Hanuman-loving residents who fed the animals bananas. In May 2007 federal lawmakers demanded protection.

Julian West wrote in The Telegraph: “Delhi's transport authorities hired a monkey-catcher to rid their buses of monkey passengers, but the scheme had only limited success because the animals are so ferocious when captured. In 1999 the government held a high-level meeting to address the problem and various schemes, such as setting up a special park for captured monkeys or neutering the animals, were mooted and rejected. An earlier plan to trap the pests and ship them to neighbouring states, broke down after many states complained that they had enough trouble coping with their own monkey problems. Exterminating the animals was not an option, because they are worshipped as incarnations of the monkey god, Hanuman. The traditional Indian way of coping with the problem - in which an apple is placed in a narrow-necked jar, which a monkey is clever enough to seize but not to let go of, thus finding its hand trapped - was clearly only viable for solitary intruders. [Source: Julian West, The Telegraph, April 15, 2001]

In November 2007, AFP reported: “"We're trying to catch them but the difficulties are a shortage of monkey catchers. We're not able to take full action at full speed," A.K. Singh, a senior municipal official, said. Delhi has a 10-million-rupee (253,000 dollar) budget to capture the common rhesus macaques which are handed over to a shelter in a disused mine area on the outskirts. Neighbouring states have refused to release the macaques into their forests because they say the "urban monkeys" terrorise the local monkeys and swipe food from villages.[Source: AFP, November 12, 2007]

Delhi's mayor has admitted authorities are fighting a losing battle. "We've neither the expertise nor the infrastructure," said Mayor Aarti Mehra. Once caught, "we're under pressure to release ... from animal activists and from people due to religious reasons." Kartick Satyanarayanan, head of India's Wildlife SOS, said the invasion of natural habitats by mushrooming populations was at the root of the problem."Humans are taking all their space."

Using Langurs to Control Rhesus Monkeys

Animal control officials often use langurs, which are bigger and fiercer monkeys, to scare away the smaller macaques or drive them into cages. Julian West wrote in The Telegraph: “The Indian government has put several large monkeys on its payroll in a last-ditch attempt to scare away thousands of smaller rhesus monkeys that have been attacking New Delhi's civil servants, sabotaging hotlines and stealing state secrets. The fearsome-looking langur monkeys now patrol South Block, the magnificent red sandstone complex that houses the defence, external affairs and finance ministries - as well as the army headquarters and Delhi's main hospital - snarling menacingly at intruders. Each receives a salary of 600 rupees (£10) a month, paid in bananas. [Source: Julian West, The Telegraph, April 15, 2001]

“The staff at President's House, Lutyens's splendid monument to the raj which adjoins South Block, devised the novel plan of using langur patrols after monkeys were found peering into President Narayan's private quarters and romping over his verandah. The langurs, which are extremely ferocious and attack other monkeys on sight, make their rounds each morning before the civil servants arrive with their tempting tiffin-carriers, or lunch-boxes. However, as temporary employees, unlike the horses, dogs and mules employed by the government, they have not been given the customary Indian civil service numbers. Unfortunately, though, South Block's cheeky monkeys have decamped to New Delhi's main post office. The city's residents, who are already accustomed to losing large quantities of their mail through pilfering, have resigned themselves to yet more monkey business.

Image Sources: Wikimedia Commons

Text Sources: National Geographic, Natural History magazine, Smithsonian magazine, Wikipedia, New York Times, Washington Post, Los Angeles Times, Times of London, The Guardian, Top Secret Animal Attack Files website, The New Yorker, Time, Newsweek, Reuters, AP, AFP, The Economist, BBC, and various books and other publications.

Last updated November 2012

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