‘I have to live in a cage’: The Thai city overrun by monkeys in wake of Covid-19

The ancient Thai city of Lopburi has become overrun by macaques in recent months.
The ancient Thai city of Lopburi has become overrun by macaques in recent months. © AFP / FRANCE 24

With gangs of monkeys roaming the streets and residents barricading indoors, the ancient Thai city of Lopburi has become overrun by marauding macaques, with the Covid-19 pandemic partly to blame.

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The monkeys have long been a draw for tourists who would frequently feed them bananas, but with tourism drying up amid the pandemic the animals have become increasingly aggressive in their search for food leading to street brawls between rival gangs along with theft and vandalism.

Some businesses have even been forced to close, while others have sought desperate measures to keep the monkeys at bay.

“I have this soft-toy crocodile in front of my shop to scare them away. I’ve got a tiger’s head as well. But you still have to shoo them away with a stick,” shop owner Taweesak Srisaguan told AFP.

Another shop owner, Kuljira Taechawattanawanna, has built elaborate steel fencing around her property to keep the monkeys out.

“I have to live in a cage,” she said. “It would be difficult to live without it because the monkeys would get in all the time.”

Now, the city is hoping to curtail the primates’ numbers through a sterilisation programme.

The animals are lured into cages and taken to a clinic to be sterilised before being released again.

“We have to make sure we organise who will catch the monkeys and keep an eye on them. If you let your guard down, they will jump on you. We need someone who will watch our backs,” Narongporn Daudduem, the regional director of national parks, told AFP.

Authorities plan to sterilise 500 of the monkeys by the end of the month.

But sterilisation may not be an effective long-term solution. Since the last sterilisation programme three years ago the macaques’ numbers have doubled.

Authorities are therefore also planning to build a sanctuary for the primates in the city in the hope of keeping them away from Lopburi’s human population.

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