Residents of a small village in Indonesia are steeling themselves for a full-scale primate invasion, as hungry monkeys threaten to break into their homes and raid their refrigerators. Why have the monkeys turned against humans? Because of—what else?—COVID-19.
The Associated Press reports that 600 gray long-tailed macaques from Bali’s Sangeh Monkey Forest have chosen to relocate to the village of Sangeh—a mere 500 meters from their usual home—because without a steady stream of tourists around to feed them snacks, they are starving. In pre-pandemic times, the monkeys were accustomed to seeing about 6,000 visitors a month come through their jungle habitat. Once travel restrictions began, that number dropped to about 500. Two months ago Indonesia banned all foreign travelers and closed the sanctuary to all visitors, locals included, bringing the monkeys’ daily snack deliveries down to zero. As you can imagine, they are not happy.
Without snacks the monkeys are dependent on sanctuary staff for food, which the workers purchase with funds gathered from Sangeh Monkey Forest’s admission fees and visitor donations. Now the money is starting to dry up, and according to operations manager Made Mohon, they’re running out of food.
Mohon told the AP that it costs about $60 a day to keep the monkeys fed and happy, which buys about 440 pounds of cassava and 22 pounds of bananas. Villagers had been taking up collections to help cover the costs, but as the pandemic drags on, the size of these donations is shrinking.
Residents said they’re used to the occasional monkey visitor in the village now and again, but never in such numbers. Now, hundreds of monkeys can be found milling around the streets and perching on roofs, waiting for opportune moments to rob whatever human victims cross their path.
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“We are afraid that the hungry monkeys will turn wild and vicious,” one resident said. “A few days ago I attended a traditional ceremony at a temple near the Sangeh forest. When I parked my car and took out two plastic bags containing food and flowers as offerings, two monkeys suddenly appeared and grabbed it all and ran into the forest very fast.”