Hungry monkeys attack villagers

PUBLISHED : Friday, 07 March, 2003, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 07 March, 2003, 12:00am

Wild monkeys roaming freely in the New Territories are attacking people, breaking into homes and stealing food as their population grows and food sources dwindle, district councillors said yesterday.

Despite the Agriculture, Fisheries and Conservation Department's (AFCD) battle to curb the primate population, the number of monkey attacks in Sha Tin has reached 30 so far this year - six times more than in the same period last year.

Sha Tin District Council yesterday called for the government to take more action, saying the present measures were counter-productive and ineffective.

Councillor Tang Wing-cheong said the ban imposed on people feeding the monkeys had made them hungrier.

The monkeys then become aggressive and bolder in their desperate hunt for food, he said.

'They usually hide in trees and wait for the housewives to come back from the wet market. Then they will rush out and attack people and run away with any food falling into their hands,' said Mr Tang.

'Some of them also break into houses and steal fruits on family altars. They are hungry and are marauding across the neighbourhoods for food.'

He said the rhesus macaques, which according to the department mainly live in Tai Wai, have now formed colonies in Mei Foo, and show signs of spreading.

Councillor Chow Ka-kong said he had been attacked by monkeys near Mong Fu Shek.

'I was walking with some kids and suddenly a score of monkeys rushed out and surrounded us. They then started to attack.

'We had to hurriedly back off. Luckily I had a walking stick with me and I wielded it to keep the monkeys from getting near,' Mr Chow said.

'It is very dangerous . . . imagine what would happen if the kids were attacked.'

Mr Chow said he believed the angry monkeys had been stirred up after they had been attacked by people with slingshots.

A spokesman for the AFCD, which has so far sterilised only 30 monkeys, said they would team up with the Hong Kong Productivity Council to launch a large-scale monkey hunt next week. The council has designed a 20-metre animal trap.

The captured monkeys would be sterilised and released, he said.

The spokesman admitted they had only 17 staff for the hunt. The government was not hiring more people because of the economic situation.

'If needed, we can ask for help from animal centres,' the spokesman said.