In a bizarre case that has bewildered many, villagers reported a series of monkey attacks that killed 250 puppies in the Beed district of the Indian state of Maharashtra.
Locals believe the killings came as “revenge” after dogs killed an infant monkey recently.
According to media reports, the langur monkeys have been catching puppies and dropping them to their deaths from considerable heights—such as from the tops of trees and buildings in Majalgaon town and neighbouring Lavul village. Following the attacks, residents of Lavul village say there are no longer any puppies left in the village. One resident, Sitaram Naibal, broke his leg while trying to rescue his puppy from a monkey. He is currently undergoing treatment.
The attacks have created considerable panic among locals who reportedly contacted wildlife officials after the monkeys started trying to grab young children on their way to school. Wildlife officials have captured two monkeys thought to be part of the attacks.
“Two monkeys involved in the killing of many puppies have been captured by a Nagpur Forest Department team in Beed," Sachin Kand, Beed Forest Officer, told ANI. “Both monkeys are being shifted to Nagpur to be released in a nearby forest.”
The attacks have inspired an array of memes on Indian Twitter under the hashtag #MonkeyVsDoge, with some social media users taking sides in the turf war between the animals.
Although instances of “vengeful” primate behaviour have been reported in the media previously, wildlife experts have called for caution before labelling animals as such without conclusive evidence.
“We often tend to associate ‘human’ sentiments to any animal. We call it ‘revenge’, or call them ‘angry’ or ‘aggressive’ without truly understanding the depth of it or the ramifications of associating anthropomorphic traits to animals,” Sumanth Bindumadhav, senior manager of wildlife disaster response for Humane Society International India, told VICE World News.
“What is unfair is that without further investigation into the matter, the authorities have gone ahead and begun capturing the primates involved, which is a welfare concern and only contributes to increasing conflict with primates,” added Bindumadhav.
Experts say that displays of aggression in primates specifically in their relationships with humans can be linked to a variety of factors including involuntary or voluntary feeding in close living quarters.
“In the world and perceptual system of monkeys, someone offering food is the most submissive form of subordination. Monkeys start perceiving humans to be their subordinates,” Mewa Singh, professor of ecology at Mysore University, told VICE World News.
“Next time they see a person with food, and the person does not offer the food to the monkeys, they are likely to get frustrated as if it was their right to be given that food. They are now likely to attack.”
Follow Rimal Farrukh on Twitter.