Chinese residents began a scheme that they hoped would rake in piles of cash through tourism. But the main attraction — live monkeys — has caused the whole plan to go terribly wrong.
The Chinese landscape boasts a mountain range teeming with wildlife, surrounding the struggling Xianfeng village. In 2003, residents decided to exploit their natural resources by coaxing 73 macaque monkeys to take up residence. It took 48 days for the entrepreneurs to relocate the monkeys and make a home for them in Xianfeng.
At first, the town found the venture to be successful. Tourists came in droves to see the monkeys, and the economy thrived with investors. A stakeholder told CCTV about the flood of interest.
”Every weekend and public holiday, the village welcomes thousands of visitors.”
But then, as the Boston Globe phrased it, “in a story that seems to channel the spirits of both Michael Crichton and Charlton Heston,” the design to attract tourists using the tame monkeys went “horribly awry.”
— Barbara J King (@bjkingape) June 16, 2016
By 2015, over 600 monkeys flocked through the town, ransacking homes and stealing food, fighting amongst themselves and creating general havoc. The monkeys have no fear of residents, according to village chief He Youliang.
“There are now more monkeys than villagers.
“These monkeys are aggressive and they steal villagers’ food and scratch people. They are used to living in our village, so now we cannot get rid of them and we do not know what to do.”
The boldness on the part of the furry primates had extended to their wild relatives. On nearby Mount Emei, visitors to the monkeys’ habitat are now warned not to touch or feed the monkeys. People are instructed to keep a tight hold of their valuables, as the animals have been known to steal objects and hang them in the treetops.
According to The Telegraph, Mr. He was the one who came up with the idea to use monkeys to attract tourists. Now, the villagers are targeting him.
An area farmer, He Fuming, said that the growing season has been ruined.
“The local people have stopped planting crops because we cannot harvest anything with the monkeys here.”
He added that the monkeys have formed four tribes who fight against each other.
The monkeys’ caretaker Zhou Zhenggu was a local investor who ran an ecotourism company. He died from a heart attack in 2014. His daughter took over, but the business failed. This left the monkeys with no human support, and their park was closed down, so they began scavenging for food.
— ThisWithTom (@ThisWithTom) June 16, 2016
Chinese wildlife authorities removed 300 monkeys from Xianfeng village, but the other half are still there and refuse to leave.
Since the monkeys are protected by law, the only alternative that villagers face now is to wait them out. Unfortunately, the remaining monkeys show no sign of leaving. It’s possible that since they have become so dependent on humans for sustenance, this generation of monkeys may not be able to survive in the wild on its own.
Will Xianfeng have to follow in the footsteps of Hong Kong, where officials now sterilize the monkeys in order to control the population?
These and other options are being discussed. Meanwhile, the monkeys just keep on helping themselves to pretty much anything they want.
[Image via Keiko Wong/Shutterstock]