Thai villagers in battle of wits with monkeys

Loss of forest habitat has forced primates to raid rural Thai homes in search of food

PUBLISHED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 30 August, 2013, 2:31am

In one Thai village, homes are raided, property is stolen and locals are attacked by gangs operating beyond the law - but the perpetrators are monkeys, not men.

"They creep into my house when they see me sleeping, they go into the kitchen and take cooking oil, sugar and even the medicines that I hide in a cabinet," said Chaluay Khamkajit, after years battling with pesky primates who are thought to have been drawn into Khlong Charoen Wai village by habitat loss.

"They took my snacks. I can buy new ones, but the medicines are important to me," the 72-year-old said, as she and her husband demonstrated a variety of anti-monkey devices including a homemade lock for the fridge and the more direct deterrent of a sling-shot.

Around 150 households in the shrimp farming community in Chachoengsao province on the east coast, 80 kilometres from Bangkok, have suffered raids by "sea monkeys" - long-tailed macaques - for about a decade.

They creep into my house when they see me sleeping, they go into the kitchen and take cooking oil, sugar and even the medicines that I hide in a cabinet

"They could find food easily in the past but when there is less forest, they have to find food in people's houses," said village headman Chatree Kaencharoen, expressing frustration at some villagers who give food to the incorrigible creatures.

Conservation group WWF said people have encroached on the monkeys' habitat - not the other way around.

"People have moved closer to nature, that is why there is an increased chance of interaction between human and animals," WWF Thailand director Petch Manopawitr said.

"Macaques can adjust their behaviour quite well … when they know that they can find food in a village, they come."

The spread of villages into formerly dense jungle has caused other clashes between people and beasts in Thailand.

"Wild pigs eat farm plants. But the villagers can also shoot the pigs and eat them," said Petch, adding that elephants and tigers were a less edible source of village disruption.

And WWF says the problem is accelerating. In a recent report, the conservation group said demand for farmland could strip the Greater Mekong region - Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam - of a third of its remaining forest cover over the next two decades without swift government action.



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