Lopburi, Thailand, grapples with a surging monkey population

Lopburi, Thailand (CNN) — It’s a Friday afternoon on a Thai public vacation in September, and native vacationers are out in pressure within the small metropolis of Lopburi.

The attraction? Some 4,500 crab-eating macaques that roam this historical capital’s streets, a lot of which occupy the crumbling Khmer-style Phra Prang Sam Yod — aka Monkey Temple — within the metropolis heart.

The primates not already munching on snacks await the vacationers to buy baggage of the fruit, seeds, peanuts and — their favourite — sugary drinks from one of many distributors that line the parking space, prepare observe and close by roads.

Patience is not the macaques’ model. Some rapidly climb up the vacationers’ our bodies to seize the goodies and run.

Others stealthily rip open the luggage that grasp from guests’ palms, seeds falling to the bottom as their cohorts rush in to seize their share of the spoils.

Nearby, a vacationer from Bangkok rushes towards one monkey that has snatched his pair of sun shades, which the animal rapidly drops upon realizing it is not edible.

A macaque drinks from a plastic container in entrance of Lopburi’s Prang Sam Yod temple in June.

MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/AFP through Getty Images

But the distributors are used to their methods, and have methods of conserving them at bay.

“How do we adapt? We just sell our stuff as normal, but when they come close, trying to steal things, we will use a slingshot and pretend to fire a shot,” says Anekchart, a fruit vendor close to the temple.

“They will just run away. We don’t even have to put a shot inside.”

How did they get there?

Phra Prang Sam Yod was constructed within the 13th century in a closely forested space. Originally a Hindu shrine constructed within the basic Bayon model of Khmer structure, it was later transformed into a Buddhist temple.

As the city grew up across the web site, the monkeys of the forest remained.

And the locals did not thoughts. The macaques have been believed to be dwelling representatives of the Hindu god Hanuman, thus considered as symbols of excellent luck.

But few are feeling all that lucky as of late.

Though the monkeys have all the time been a a part of native life, placing the town on the worldwide tourism map, regular population progress has made their presence more and more difficult.

Narongporn Doodduem, regional director of Thailand’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife, tells CNN Travel they solely began monitoring the population in 2018.

As of the top of September 2020, there are actually 9,054 crab-eating macaques — also called long-tailed macaques — in Lopburi province, with 4,635 within the capital metropolis of the identical title.

Narongporn says it is not possible to disclaim that a population spike in recent times has “ruined the livelihood of local residents.”

The monkeys are identified for his or her daring habits, invading properties and companies to steal items, ripping at every part from automobile windshield wipers to accommodate window screens, leaving trails of waste behind them.

“People cannot even use rain water collected from their own roofs because of monkey feces, and many also cannot grow crops as they would be destroyed by monkeys,” says Narongporn.

The Covid impact

The coronavirus pandemic has simply exacerbated this longstanding drawback.

With Thailand at the moment closed to worldwide vacationers, the monkeys in the primary vacationer heart — as soon as accustomed to every day feasts — now should make do with what the locals and home weekend vacationers feed them.

“There are three main groups of monkeys,” explains Manus Wimuktipan, secretary of the Lopburi Monkey Foundation.

“They live in an abandoned cinema, near the local Muangthong Hotel and in the tourist-frequented Prang Sam Yod area. Besides these three main gangs, there are multiple small groups that are scattered around town.”

Each group protects its territory fiercely, he says.

This is what occurred in March. According to Manus, “the incident took place because the monkeys from at least three gangs all saw a person bringing in bottles of sweetened fermented milk. And every group wanted them because they like this kind of drink very much. And that was the start of the fierce fighting.”

Officials say it is the consumption of those candy drinks and different junk meals that’s a large a part of the general drawback. And it is not all being immediately handed to them both.

“The monkeys have begun to wait at garbage bins at shops and department stores where humans dump all those tasty foods and snacks,” says Manus. “They have become addicted to human food because it is tasty.”

A veterinarian sterilizes a monkey in Lopburi on June 21, 2020.

A veterinarian sterilizes a monkey in Lopburi on June 21, 2020.

MLADEN ANTONOV/AFP/AFP through Getty Images

In addition to rotting the monkeys’ enamel, these sugary meals and drinks are additionally inflicting them to breed extra typically.

“I have tried to educate tourists and locals about the importance of not feeding monkeys food that’s high in carbohydrates and sugar — this has contributed to the growth of the population in Lopburi significantly,” says Narongporn.

“Naturally, the monkeys would be able to give birth once a year due to the limited amount of food they can find in nature. But city monkeys are consuming food all the time and as a result they are able to give birth twice a year.”

In an effort to tame the population, the province lately wrapped up its greatest sterilization marketing campaign but.

“This year we sterilized 1,200 monkeys in Lopburi (916 of those were in the city), a new record. Normally we would do around 400 monkeys a year,” says Narongporn.

They’ve been receiving complaints for years, he says, however it hasn’t been straightforward to get everybody on the identical web page when it comes to methods to greatest sustainably fight the problem.

This 12 months, nevertheless, assist has been widespread.

“I used to receive a lot of resistance from monkey lovers every time we’ve tried to get in to sterilize monkeys,” he says.

“Some wanted to move these monkeys out of Lopburi city totally, but the problems are where do you move them? Who will be taking care of them? What to do if they die or spread disease? It would be just like dumping one’s garbage in another’s house.

“But now it has modified. I’m receiving a lot of cooperation from locals — together with these within the tourism trade — to resolve this drawback sustainably.”

Monkeys jump onto tourists during the annual "Monkey Buffet" in Lopburi on November 27, 2016.

Monkeys soar onto vacationers throughout the annual “Monkey Buffet” in Lopburi on November 27, 2016.


Though the monkeys might be causing difficulties for locals, they are still celebrated as a local icon.

Officials have confirmed to CNN Travel the annual Monkey Buffet Festival will take place at Phra Prang Sam Yod on November 29, as the country has not reported a locally transmitted Covid-19 infection in several weeks.

As part of the festival, the city puts out a huge spread of food and drinks for the monkeys to feast on, an event that in normal years attracts both local and international tourists.

Coexisting with the monkeys

The owners of this Lopburi auto parts shop have learned to coexist with the monkeys.

The homeowners of this Lopburi auto components store have discovered to coexist with the monkeys.

Karla Cripps/CNN

Not everyone seems to be discovering it troublesome to coexist harmoniously with the monkeys.

Staff in a single auto components store throughout the road from the “Monkey Temple” have learned to adapt and now welcome the macaques’ presence.

As we enter the shop, several monkeys sit quietly on counters and shelves. A small macaque sleeps on a red cloth on a counter.

Pathitpan Tuntiwong, 63, is the owner. He was born and raised in the city, and says he feels sorry for the animals.

His family feeds them daily, and allows the smaller, weaker monkeys — “They’ve been kicked out of their herds,” he says — to come into his shop during the day, some even hanging onto the shirts of staff’s backs as they go about their work.

“We have taken their habitat away, that’s the reason the issue continues,” says Pathitpan.

“Their population has elevated quickly. It has risen to the purpose the place individuals cannot take this anymore. I’ve been dwelling on this spot for over 60 years. I’ve step by step put up safety to maintain them out of my house and constantly adapt.

“They just don’t know where to find a source of food. There are no trees around, there are no water sources. Their quality of living is bad. We are helping as much as we can.”

A macaque makes itself at home inside a Lopburi autoparts shop.

A macaque makes itself at house inside a Lopburi autoparts store.

Karla Cripps/CNN

While chatting with us, Pathitpan is interrupted mid-sentence as a chaotic scene breaks out on the street in entrance of his store. A pack of monkeys has jumped into the again of a pickup truck that is idling in site visitors, and rapidly begins rummaging by means of a pile of huge cooking pots and different containers.

The truck occupants get out and swing on the animals, unsuccessfully making an attempt to scare them off.

“They’re clearly not from here,” laughs Pathitpan. “People in our neighborhood know better than to drive down this road with a truck loaded up like that.”

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