Residents barricaded, fights between rival gangs, territories forbidden to humans : in Lopburi, in Thailand, thousands of macaques in freedom no longer attract tourists absent from the pandemic and have become out of control, forcing the authorities to react.
“We live in a cage and the monkeys are outside,” sighed Kuljira, and is forced to cover the back-yard of his house, an immense structure chunk.
“The droppings are everywhere, in the streets, the smell is unbearable, especially when it’s raining “, she said to AFP before returning to his shop, a hardware store in the center of Lopburi, the former khmer capital, 150 kilometers north of Bangkok.
A few stalls later, Taweesak, another trader, was installed tiger and crocodile plush for attempting to scare the primates, also appearing of the stick when they need to push out of his store.
In three years, their population has doubled : 6000 macaques coexist today with 27 000 inhabitants.
Driven from their natural habitat, retreated in a first time around a temple in the heart of the city, they have, over the years, invaded the adjacent streets, taking over buildings and forcing shops to lower permanently their curtain.
The old cinema of the city even became their cemetery, and they deposited the body of their congeners, and defend it jealously.
Main tourist attraction of Lopburi, the monkeys have long been tolerated by the population, constituting a source of revenue that is not negligible.
Hundreds of macaques hungry
But Thailand has closed its borders since the outbreak of coronavirus and the foreign visitors, who were in the habit of giving food to the primates for the pleasure of a égoportrait, are conspicuously absent, making the situation even more uncontrollable.
Pictures, showing gangs of hundreds of macaques hungry now brawling in the middle of the street for food, have done the rounds of the media and social networks.
This video, released in march, has also served as electroshock : the authorities have launched this week a campaign of sterilization, the first major for three years. Objective : to castrate 500 primates, males and females, in order to put a brake on their proliferation.
Attracted by the food lodged in large cages, the monkeys are asleep, taken to a veterinary clinic where they are tattooed as a function of their sex and of the “gang” in which they operate. They go on the block after a battery of tests.
On 20 June, the first day of the campaign, “we captured 100, but we do not operate on that half,” notes Narongporn Daudduem, director of the department of parks and the wild life of Lopburi.
“Some have already been sterilized, others are in the phase of breastfeeding, yet others too young “, details there.
This campaign of sterilization may not be enough and another more sustainable solution is the study : to rid the city of all its primates, by grouping them in a sanctuary built in a bit of a gap.
In the meantime, the people of Lopburi have to continue composing. To avoid that the situation deteriorated, traders feed themselves… junk food or sweets.
“These monkeys have become accustomed to eat everything, like humans. This is not good for their health, ” said Pramot Ketampai who works in the complex khmer the city centre.
“The more they are fed, the more they store up the energy they will spend in breeding “, he added, denouncing this vicious circle.
Despite the nuisance, Taweesak does, him, not question the presence of small primates, which are so important to the affairs of the town.
That would Lopburi without monkeys ? if he asked. They are the ones who will return the tourists. And, ” if they were all going to, I would feel a bit lonely “.