On Sunday, the annual Monkey Feast Festival in Lopburi Thailand served a meal fit for thousand’s of primates.
Among the morning traffic, rows and rows of monkey statues with trays lined up outside the Ancient Three Pagodas compound, while volunteers prepared food across the road for real monkeys — the symbol of Lopburi province, about 150 kilometres (93 miles) north of Bangkok.
Throngs of macaque monkeys ran around, sometimes fighting, as crowds of visitors and locals grew.
The ravenous creatures pounced as the carefully prepared feast was brought toward the temple, quickly devouring the mostly vegetarian spread.
While the festival has a high entertainment value, organizers are quick to point out that it is not just monkey business.
“Every year, this monkey feast festival helps promote Lopburi’s tourism among international tourists,” said the festival’s founder, Yongyuth Kitwatanusont.
“There were around 300 monkeys in Lopburi before they increased to nearly 4,000 today.”
However, Lopburi is known as a monkey city, which means that monkeys and humans can coexist.”
Such harmony could be seen in the monkeys’ lack of shyness as they climbed on visitors, vehicles, and lampposts. The curious animals occasionally looked beyond the abundant feast and became interested in other items.
“I was trying to take a selfie with a monkey on my back. “He grabbed my sunglasses off my face and ran off to the top of a lamppost, where he was trying to eat them for a while,” Ayisha Bhatt, a California-based English teacher working in Thailand told AP.
The risk of petty theft did not deter the delighted onlookers, though some were content to be cautious.
“We have to look after them; we should leave them alone.” “It’s better not to get too close,” said Carlos Rodway, a tourist from Cadiz, Spain, who had previously been unceremoniously treated as a climbing frame by one daring monkey.
The festival is an annual tradition in Lopburi, the provincial capital, and is held to thank the monkeys for bringing in tourists.
This year’s theme is “monkeys feeding monkeys,” which is an antidote to previous years when monkey participation was reduced due to a large number of tourists who intimidated the animals.
Monkeys wreaking havoc in Lopburi, Thailand
In March, group of veterinarians and officials from the Department of National Parks, Wildlife, and Plant Conservation brainstormed on solutions to the rapid increase in the monkey population in Lopburi.
The monkey population is causing problems for both locals and visitors. Instead of relocating the primates, they are considering sterilizing them to control the population.
Monkeys are scaring merchants and customers away from the Manora Sunday market, where they are destroying stock and attacking customers. Worse, monkeys are defecating all over the pavements in the market area.
Large groups of monkeys, according to Thai PBS reporters, climb buildings and utility poles, with some searching for food in trash cans and along roads.
Lopburi recorded a total of 9,300 monkeys in the province in 2020, with 3,100 of them living in Muang district. Already, 900 have been sterilized. To control the population, however, at least 70% of the population must be sterilized.
Authorities have yet to control the monkey population because the budget for monkey sterilisation is allocated for the entire country rather than just Lopburi.
Another issue is that monkeys breed all year long, with no set mating season.
Meanwhile, the Director of the Conservation Forest Management Administration Office 1 in Saraburi explained that moving the monkeys would exacerbate the situation. As a result, mass sterilisation is the only viable option.
The Chulabhorn Royal Academy’s Faculty of Veterinary Medicine and Applied Zoology is debating the best ways to keep the monkey population under control.
Lopburi is known as Thailand’s “monkey hub,” due to its large monkey population. Videos of monkeys fighting over scarce food went viral in March 2020.
The lack of food is caused by a lack of tourists, who normally feed them. The subject was also addressed in an episode of America’s “The Daily Show” hosted by Trevor Noah.