In what can be described as a scene similar to the climax of the Hollywood blockbuster "Rise of the Planet of the Apes", a video circulating wildly on social media shows hundreds of monkeys going on a rampage on the streets of the city of Lopburi in Thailand.
The question is, why were they going berserk? Because they were starving and were looking for something to eat! It is believed to be a "gang war" between temple-dwelling monkeys and street monkeys over food. The number of tourists visiting temples in the city has dwindled due to the COVID-19 pandemic, causing the monkeys to lose an important source of sustenance.
'Gang war' over food on the streets of Thailand
The video which has been re-shared thousands of times on social media shows groups of crab-eating macaques (Macaca fascicularis) — numbering hundreds — edgily patrolling the lightly crowded roads. Some are seen wandering around frantically and some can be seen sitting in the middle of the street as a handful of motorists maneuver their way around them. It was reported that the macaques were foraging for food.
Halfway into the clip, one of the brown coloured primates can be seen making its way into the crowd with what is said to be a banana or a cup of yogurt. Within seconds, a group of fellow monkeys attack it and try to snatch the food away. Soon, the other monkeys join in and it turns into a no-holds-barred gang war. According to Khaosod English, the two "gangs" that clashed were from the Phra Kan Shrine and Prang Sam Yod temple.
Coronavirus pandemic hits Thai tourism industry
The "monkey war" is a reflection of the dire state of the tourism industry in Thailand, which is facing a sharp dip due to the global COVID-19 pandemic. Tourism contributed nearly 1.93 trillion baht to Thailand's gross domestic product (GDP) in 2019.
A recent report by the Bangkok Post said that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) had announced a 44.3 percent fall in tourists visiting in February. TAT Governor Yuthasak Supasorn said in a meeting with tourism operators that Chinese tourists, who form the largest chunk of visitors to the country, saw a drastic fall of 85.3 percent.
Sasaluk Rattanachai, who shared a video of the brawl on social media, told Khaosod English: "It's the summer so usually we see a lot of tourists, but now because of the outbreak there's so few that the markets are very quiet. Not enough tourists come to leave food for the monkeys at Prang Sam Yod." Known to be generally of a friendly demeanor, thousands of these macaques live within the temple complexes in the city and are fed by tourists who frequent Lopburi in the summer. A festival devoted to feeding the monkeys, known as the Monkey Buffet Festival, is also held annually.