PHUKET CITY: Two rogue monkeys are wreaking havoc atop Rang Hill, where they have been terrorizing tourists, stealing food from diners in a hillside restaurant – and even biting people.
News of the primate pests was reported to the Kusoldharm Foundation volunteer rescue service by staff at the Tunk-ka Cafe on January 26, months after the monkeys first appeared.
Sukontip Kitsubun, who has a concession to run a small retail shop in the park there, told the Gazette that there are two groups of monkeys living atop Rang Hill. The first is a colony of about 10 monkeys that has lived there for a long time without creating any bother.
About three months ago, however, trouble arrived in the form of three pigtailed macaques (Macaca nemestrina), easily recognizable by their bright red bottoms. Not long after their arrival, the macaques began biting and scratching tourists, especially those who tried to feed them, she told the Gazette.
“One child was bitten or scratched in the face, and a man suffered a nasty wound from a bite to his ankle,” she said.
Last month, one of the three macaques – the only male – died in the most unexpected fashion for a monkey: he fell from a tree.
K. Sukontip said it is a mystery how the macaques had found their way into the municipal park.
“Those monkeys are a lot different from the ones in the other group. I think some people must have dumped them here. That’s so rude,” she commented.
And the macaques are every bit as rude as the people who abandoned them, she added.
“Those monkeys are always rude, always biting tourists and grabbing their food,” she said, adding that the animals appeared thin and malnourished.
“Last November I called the Phuket City Municipality’s Environmental Division about this problem. They told me to call the fire station. When I did, they said they would take care of the problem – but that was months ago and nothing has happened,” she said.
Rang Hill is popular with tour guides, who often conduct busloads of tourists to the park so they can enjoy its impressive views over the city. The tour guides view the two remaining macaques as a threat to tourism.
“One tour guide tried to help us by calling the police emergency hotline. The police asked: ‘What do you expect us to do? Bring our guns and shoot them dead?'” she said.
Aikachai Chuwong of the Kusoldharm Foundation told the Gazette that three foundation staffers went to Rang Hill on January 26 in an attempt to catch the two monkeys and remove them to Toh Sae Hill or Koh Sireh. The effort failed, however, when one staff member was bitten while trying to catch the primates.
K. Aikachai said the Phuket Provincial Livestock Office (PPLO) should step in to solve the problem.
When contacted by the Gazette, PPLO Chief Sunart Wongchawalit said responsibility for the problem falls on the Municipality, but that the PPLO would be glad to provide its help and expertise if the city asked for it.
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