This isn’t the plot of a movie … it’s a real-life monkey takeover. Hundreds of wild monkeys who once lived in relative peace and harmony with people in a Chinese village set up to be a tourist attraction have instead taken it over from the humans who once pledged to care for them and are now driving the ‘filthy humans’ out. Is this the start of a macaque massacre? A rhesus revolution? Monkey mayhem?
In 2003, He Youliang, party secretary of Xianfeng Village located in the city of Panzhihua in south-west China’s Sichuan Province, convinced fellow residents to invite macaques (Macaca mulatta) to the town from a nearby mountain as a way to increase tourism. A total of 73 monkeys accepted the offer of food and moved in. That number soon increased to over 600 and Xianfeng became a monkey metropolis, attracting thousands of visitors. The success of the village attracted wealthy investors looking to make money on monkeys, including main investor Zhou Zhenggui, who ran the tourism company.
All was fine until two years ago when Zhou passed away. His daughter took over, monkeyed around with the books and the business went into a tailspin. When the cash ran out, villagers couldn’t feed the monkeys on their own. That didn’t faze the hungry macaques, who began raiding homes, farms, orchards and stores for food. “Raid” is the wrong word, since macaques are a Class II national protected species, entitling them to special treatment.
Panzhihua Baoding Ecotourism went out of business last month. Wildlife officials, with their hands tied by government protection, were only able to drive 300 of the monkeys back onto the mountain. The remaining 300 are running the show as the villagers run out of food and run away from the hungry animals.
Hungry animals? Who are the hungry animals here? The monkeys lured by food and cared for by humans? Or the money-hungry businesses and profiteers who used them until the cash ran out?
Who deserves to live out their lives in peace in Xianfeng Village?