Officials Plan to End Monkey Invasion in Thai City

06 April 2024

Wildlife officials in Thailand released a plan on Wednesday to bring peace to a central city after at least 10 years of human-monkey conflict.

The macaques that live in Lopburi are a symbol of local culture and a major tourist attraction. But there have been years of dangerous interactions between humans and the monkeys. Past attempts to control the monkey population have failed. Local people and businesses say they have had enough.

The monkeys often try to take food from humans, injuring them in the process. Most injuries are minor. But two serious monkey attacks took place last month. A monkey pulled a woman down to the ground when trying to take her food. The woman suffered a serious knee injury. In the other attack, a hungry monkey pushed a man off a motorcycle.

 M<I><I>onkey</I></I>s eat fruit during m<I><I>onkey</I></I> feast festival in Lopburi province, Thailand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Chalida EKvitthayavechnukul, File)
Monkeys eat fruit during monkey feast festival in Lopburi province, Thailand. Sunday, Nov. 27, 2022. (AP Photo/Chalida EKvitthayavechnukul, File)

Officials hope to capture 2,500 of the monkeys and place them in large enclosures, said Athapol Charoenshunsa. He is the director-general of the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation. They will work with wildlife experts to find a way for a limited number of monkeys to stay in the city, he added.

"I don't want humans to have to hurt monkeys, and I don't want monkeys to have to hurt humans," he told reporters in Bangkok.

An official monkey catching campaign was launched week. The officials' main concern is aggressive alpha males. Workers have caught 37 monkeys so far. Most of those animals were placed under the care of wildlife officials in the nearby province of Saraburi. Others were sent to the Lopburi zoo.

Officials said they plan to capture more monkeys once the enclosures are complete. Separate cages will be prepared for different troops of monkeys to prevent them from fighting.

Athapol said the large cages will be able to contain thousands of them and "will solve the problem very quickly."

The monkeys are a symbol of the province, about 140 kilometers north of Bangkok. There, the ancient Three Pagodas temple, celebrates a yearly "Monkey Buffet" festival. Macaques are considered a protected species under Thailand's wildlife conservation law.

Some have blamed the city's monkey troubles on tourists and local people feeding the animals. They say feeding them led more monkeys to enter the city in search of food.

But an earlier effort to limit feeding may have made things worse, some locals say. City officials in recent years ordered fines against people caught feeding monkeys in several areas around the main tourist sites. But those feeding areas were controlled by a few troops of the highly territorial macaques. Competing groups grew hungry and increasingly sought food from humans in other areas.

Athapol said people should not consider the monkeys as villains. He said officials might have not moved quickly enough to control the monkey population.

People also need to adapt to the city's monkeys, said Phadej Laithong. He is director of the Wildlife Conservation Office. He explained that a lack of natural food sources leads the animals to find food wherever they can, including from humans.

Past control measures have fallen short. From 2014 to 2023, the wildlife officials neutered about 2,600 Lopburi monkeys.

Athapol said they are also working in other areas of Thailand that are facing problems with monkeys. He said 52 of the country's 77 provinces often report of problems from monkeys.

I'm Dan Novak.

Dan Novak adapted this story for VOA Learning English based on reporting by The Associated Press.


Words in This Story

enclosure — n. an area of or for containment of something

alpha — n. a socially dominant person or animal

villain — n. an evil person

adapt — v. to change so as to fit a new or specific use or situation

neuter — v. to perform a medical operation to halt an animal's reproductive ability