PHUKET – Thailand’ Phuket province will hold a public meeting next month to come up with ways to deal with a growing monkey population that has become menace to residents and tourists.
The meeting will be open to residents, representatives from the tourist industry, provincial officials and animal lovers to exchange ideas and propose solutions, said a source from the provincial panel set up to deal with the problem.
The province has been facing a growing monkey population despite attempts — including sterilization — by authorities to contain their numbers.
“If people think that sterilization is enough, we will continue that course of action,” said the source. “But if they agree to relocate them to other islands, we will do it.”
Relocation to unpopulated islands is among the options the panel is weighing up. It has already looked at five locations — Koh Ngam, Koh Payu, Koh Tanan, Koh Pae and Koh Malee.
These islands have enough natural food and freshwater resources to sustain the animals and ensure their survival, the source said.
If the relocation proposal gets the nod at the public hearing next month, the monkeys will be neutered before being moved, the source added.
The growing monkey population has become a problem for Phuket since 2015, partly because of people feeding them.
The monkeys have reportedly become more aggressive by stealing food, snatching tourists’ belongings and in residential areas, breaking into houses and damaging property and belongings.
Areas in the province that are heavily populated by monkeys included Khao Rang, Bang Rong Pier, Soi Tachin, King Kaew Soi 9, Ban Yamu and Koh Sireh.
It is estimated that there are over 1,000 monkeys living in Phuket, most of them long-tailed and pig-tailed macaques.
In January of this year, more than 3,000 hungry monkeys are rampaging through houses and monks’ living quarters at two villages in Thailand’s Sisaket province.
Packs of wild long-tailed macaques are seen making their way along local roads at villages Moo 1 and Moo 11 every day.
Some aggressively invade homes in their search for food, forcing householders to stand guard, and to close windows and doors, to keep them out. Undeterred, the monkeys have managed to enter houses through ventilators in roofs.
They also raid the people’s crops.
The macaque population in tambon Muang Khaen has grown rapidly, causing problems for residents and also monks at the temple. The pesky simians now number over 3,000.
Thonglor Jaemsri, village head of Moo 11, said tribes of monkeys had lived in the area ever since human settlement, but their numbers then were not high. They existed on wild fruit and other natural foods.
But the macaque population had grown rapidly, and their food supply had been steadily depleted. This drove them to foraging for food around and inside the homes of the local people, Mr Thonglor said.
The hungry animals also invaded the living quarters of monks at Wat Ban Muang Khaem. The temple had begun giving them leftover food from offerings given during merit-making, but even that was not enough for them.
Although the monkeys had invaded their homes, the people had never assaulted them, he said. They wanted to conserve the animals so the area would become a tourist attraction.
The people simply needed the authorities to control the size of the macaque population, so they could live with them in harmony.
Householder Suwan Thaptim, 70, said the monkeys prowled in packs 100-200 strong. Most lived in nearby forests, and others at the temple.
Residents who forgot to close their windows would see their houses ransacked, with food stolen and their damaged belongings left scattered everwhere. Invading monkeys had even opened refrigerators and swept all the food inside onto the floor.
There were fights between competing troops of monkeys. They fought over food and chased one another to steal whatever they had looted. The roofs of their houses had become fighting arenas for these animals. Several roofs had been damaged.
Samnak Pupaboon, chairman of Muang Khaem tambon administration organisation, said the TAO normally set aside 35,000 baht a year to buy food to feed the monkeys. An annual buffet party was held for them every year. But no matter how much food they were given, it was never enough.
He wants provincial authorities to survey the monkey population and draw up measures to solve the problem, which also affects their farms. The monkey population must urgently be controlled, he said.
By Apinya Wipatayotin and Sanoh Worarak