Monkeys are rampaging through streets and shops in the Thai city of Lopburi while using an abandoned cinema as their HQ, new footage of the sex-mad macaques has revealed.
Before coronavirus locals tolerated the macaques – thought to number 6,000 amid a human population of 750,000 – because they attracted tourists who paid good money to feed them fruit and take pictures.
But lockdowns have stopped the tourists from coming which means the monkeys are running short on supplies, turning them violent and leaving locals struggling to keep control.
People have sought to appease them with junk food, but the sugary diet has turned them sex-crazed and that they are now breeding faster than before.
Areas of the city are no-go zones, with one abandoned cinema serving as the macaques’ base – and cemetery of their warrior kings.
Dead monkeys are laid to rest by their peers in the projection room in the cinema’s rear and any human who enters is attacked by the vicious hoards.
In March the primates were pictured getting into a mass brawl over bananas after the supply dwindles.
The fearless species rules the streets around the Prang Sam Yod temple in the centre of Lopburi, patrolling the tops of walls and brazenly ripping the rubber seals from car doors.
Pointing to the overhead netting covering her terrace, Kuljira Taechawattanawanna feels like a prisoner in her own home. ‘We live in a cage but the monkeys live outside,’ she says.
‘Their excrement is everywhere, the smell is unbearable especially when it rains.’
A government sterilisation campaign is now being waged against the creatures after the epidemic provoked an unexpected change in their behaviour.
Footage of hundreds of them brawling over food in the streets went viral on social media in March.
Their growing numbers – doubling in three years – have made an uneasy coexistence with their human peers almost intolerable. Many areas have simply been surrendered to the marauding monkeys.
Nearby, a shop owner displays stuffed tiger and crocodile toys to try to scare off the monkeys, who regularly snatch spray-paint cans from his store.
No one in Lopburi seems to remember a time without the monkeys, with some speculating that the urban creep into nearby forest displaced the simians into the city.
Residents have taken it upon themselves to feed the macaques to prevent clashes.
But locals say the sugary diet of fizzy drinks, cereal and sweets has fuelled their sex lives.
‘The more they eat, the more energy they have… so they breed more,’ says Pramot Ketampai, who manages the Prang Sam Yod temple’s surrounding shrines.
The macaques’ mob fights have drawn the attention of authorities, who restarted a sterilisation programme this month after a three-year pause.
Wildlife department officers lure the animals into cages with fruit and take them to a clinic where they are anaesthetised, sterilised and left with a tattoo to mark their neutering.
They aim to process 500 of the creatures by Friday.
But the campaign may not be enough to quell their numbers and the department has a long-term plan to build a sanctuary in another part of the city – this will likely be met with resistance from the human residents.
‘We need to do a survey of the people living in the area first,’ said Narongporn Daudduem from the wildlife department.
‘It’s like dumping garbage in front of their houses and asking them if they’re happy or not.’
Taweesak Srisaguan, the shop owner in Lopburi who uses stuffed animals as a deterrent to the unwanted monkey visitors, says that despite his daily joust with the creatures, he will miss them if they are moved.
‘I’m used to seeing them walking around, playing on the street,’ he says.
‘If they’re all gone, I’d definitely be lonely.’