If you open your door and catch an unexpected whiff of bananas and fur in the air, slam it shut and cover your head or you may be attacked by murderous brick-throwing monkeys. That’s what happened to a priest in India who was killed by a gang of monkeys dropping bricks on his head. What’s worse, this is just the latest in a string of monkey murders.
It happened this week in Patna, a city in the state of Bihar in northeast India. Temple priest Munna Mishra was sweeping the path outside his home when monkeys threw bricks and stones at him from a terrace above the path. The priest was taken to a hospital where he died from his injuries.
What kind of monkeys would kill a priest? They’re most likely rhesus macaque monkeys which were once wild but have been urbanized by people who feed them bananas, peanuts and other foods on Tuesdays and Saturdays in honor of the Hindu god Hanuman. Unfortunately, urbanization doesn’t make the monkeys tame as they’re known to steal food, snatch clothing and bite.
And kill. Locals report that the priest was the third monkey fatality in the area in recent times and it's not just a problem in Bihar. In 2014, a woman in Shimla in northern India was killed when she tried to chase a gang of monkeys from her farm. In 2007, Delhi deputy mayor SS Bajwa died when he was attacked by a gang of monkeys and fell from his terrace while trying to escape. In 2012, a 14-year-old girl was seriously injured when monkeys attacked her and she fell from a five-story building.
Fighting the killer monkeys is a Planet of the Apes soap opera. Some local governments hire monkey catchers who use trained gray langurs – larger monkeys that are known enemies of rhesus macaques – to scare them away. This doesn’t always work – an elderly man was seriously attacked in 2014 by a langur. Towns that can’t afford the trainers have resorted to small men in langur costumes as an economical albeit feeble alternative.
This clash of religion, nature and budgets means there’s no simple solution to India’s murderous monkey mayhem.
Is there any way to escape from these killer simians? Maybe Charlton Heston’s approach was the best.