(TMU) – It’s been over four months since much of the world went into lockdown conditions due to the pandemic, and the idea that “the world is healing” in the absence of humans has long been reduced to a cliché.
And as we continue to stay indoors and self-quarantine to varying degrees, at least one city has been completely taken over by the wild beasts who have reclaimed the concrete jungles where humans once dwelled.
The ancient city of Lopburi, Thailand, has become the scene of raging warfare between roving gangs of thousands of monkeys hopped-up or “super-charged on junk food,” according to AFP.
An estimated 6,000 longtail macaques are now causing chaos in the Central Thai city with a human population of 750,000 – and their population is exploding due to the sugary diet that locals have provided them with to appease them and keep their aggression at bay.
In March, the massive monkey population was already starving due to the lack of tourists who enjoyed feeding the little simians and snapping selfies with them, leading to surreal scenes of masses of macaques engaging in all-out brawls for dwindling supplies of bananas.
In the absence of tourists, however, the primates have taken a turn toward ultra-violent antics that have turned vast swathes of the city into no-go zones for locals. The government is now readying itself to wage a sterilization campaign against the fearless and menacing monkey hordes after pausing the program for three years.
Local resident Kuljira Taechawattanawanna has covered her terrace in overhead netting to protect her home from the filthy troublemakers who have occupied the heart of the 13th-century city in Central Thailand.
“We live in a cage but the monkeys live outside,” she explained. “Their excrement is everywhere, the smell is unbearable especially when it rains.”
The primates now reign over the neighborhoods adjacent to the Prang Sam Yod temple, and patrol the tops of walls. They’ve also taken to brazenly tearing the rubber seals off of car doors.
The macaques have also taken over an abandoned movie theater and made it their headquarters. A nearby shop owner was forced to use stuffed tiger and crocodile toys to scare the monkeys away and prevent them from shoplifting spray-paint cans.
Residents now live in thrall to the monkeys, and have fed the macaques sugar, breakfast cereal and candy to tide them over. However, this has only increased their appetite for sex and violence.
“The more they eat, the more energy they have … so they breed more,” said Pramot Ketampai, who manages the shrines surrounding Prang Sam Yod temple.
Authorities now hope to tackle the problem by luring the hungry longtails into fruit-filled cages before hauling them off to a clinic where they can be anaesthetized, sterilized, and tattooed to signal that they’ve been neutered. By Friday, authorities hope to fix 500 of the creatures.
But with the monkey problem reaching such nightmarish proportions, wildlife authorities are unsure of whether they should return the creatures to the city or relocate them to a sanctuary in another section of the city.
“We need to do a survey of the people living in the area first,” said wildlife official Narongporn Daudduem. “It’s like dumping garbage in front of their houses and asking them if they’re happy or not.”
But at least some residents have grown accustomed to their noisy neighbors, regardless of the headaches they cause.
“I’m used to seeing them walking around, playing on the street,” said shopkeeper Taweesak Srisaguan. “If they’re all gone, I’d definitely be lonely.”