Do animals have human-like feelings about each other … especially about their offspring? Do they have feelings about other species? If those two are true, do animals have feelings when another species kills their offspring? Specifically, do they have a feeling of revenge … a feeling strong enough to make them kill members of the other species? These seemingly philosophical questions suddenly became reality in a small village in India where it appears enraged macaque monkeys have killed 250 dogs by dragging them to the top of buildings and trees and dropping them to the ground … acts of animal violence that seem to have been caused by a pack of dogs killing an infant monkey. Is this an example of animal revenge or the next level of “monkey see, monkey do”?
“Monkeys have been rampant at Lavul in Majalgaon taluka for the last one month. The monkeys pick up the puppies and throw them down from the trees and buildings. During the month, many puppies have been killed by these monkeys. Some villagers have also been attacked by monkeys, creating a climate of fear in the area. Anger is being expressed from the villagers as the forest department is ignoring this.” (Google translation)
Pudhari News, along with other Indian media outlets, are calling this “Monkey vs. Dog” and “Revenge of the Apes.” Residents of Majalgaon on the west central coast of India say the strange behavior began about a month ago. Monkeys suddenly began grabbing puppies, carrying them to the roofs of buildings or the tops of trees and hurling them down to the ground in what only could e described as an attempt to kill them. As this horrific violence increased, residents remembered an incident which may have started it.
“One month ago, a monkey cub was allegedly killed by dogs in Lavul area.”
Since then, it looks like the monkeys of Majalgaon, which have the run of the village in a country where they’re held to be sacred, are intent on exacting revenge on the canines by wiping them out. According to local officials, an estimated 250 dogs of all ages have been killed in the past month. Before you ask, interfering with the avenging apes is not an option.
“Fifteen days ago, Sitaram Naibal's puppy was picked up by a monkey and taken to the terrace of the house. This time, the monkey tried to attack Naibal while he was on the terrace to rescue the pup. While fleeing, Naibal fell down from the terrace. It broke his leg. He is being treated at the hospital.”
In fact, now that the dog population of the village has been nearly wiped out, the monkeys are reportedly attacking humans, especially small children. Pudhari News reports of a boy being rescued from a gang of monkeys by villagers wielding sticks and stones. Yes, they called the Dharur Forest Department and other local authorities, but the monkeys were gone by the time they arrived, so they left – a common response to this uncommon problem. Videos of the monkey-on-dog violence have been playing on Indian media, causing concern in nearby villages. (Photos and videos can be seen here.) Already, the neighboring village of Lavool reports monkeys have fully eradicated all of its dogs.
Could these macaques really be taking revenge on the dogs after the killing of an infant monkey?
“Yes, animals do practice revenge. Chimps do it, for example. Macaques do it, too, although not directly: if they cannot attack the offender because he is much stronger, they would hurt someone weaker instead, sometimes the attacker’s relative.”
Vladimir Dinets of Kean University, whose research focuses on animal behavior, told Gizmodo that’s exactly what this behavior sounds like. The macaques could not attack the pack of adult dogs that killed the infant, so instead they took revenge on weaker puppies. Dinets warns that any other reasoning as to why these monkeys in particular are showing the human trait of revenge is not clear yet.
Could the killer monkeys of Majalgaon have learned this behavior by watching humans? It’s more likely that a different human behavior is a greater influence – the response to the coronavirus pandemic. Monkeys dependent on handouts or trash are starving because of shortages, and hunger is a motivator to violence in humans and other species.
Is COVID turning Earth into the Planet of the Apes? Will we find out before its too late?