Indiginous monkey rules the roost in nation's highlands


Sun, Jul 27, 2003 - Page 4

The Formosan macaque, a monkey protected by law, has become a pest to farmers living near the mountains they inhabit.

The monkeys are protected because they are unique to the nation, but their increasing numbers have made them the dominant primate in the mountainous regions. They act in groups, and according to farmers in these areas, have become more bold and more aggressive.

In Taitung County, located at the eastern end of Taiwan's Central Mountains, an owner of a chicken farm complained that the monkeys often harass his chickens. And he said they aren't doing it for food, but instead are just playing monkey games such as plucking the feathers off roosters and placing hens on branches high up in the trees.

A goat ranch owner in Fuyuan, Taitung County, said that a Formosan macaque arrived at his ranch this year and soon started picking on his goats, even sexually assaulting the ewes.

He said he bought six dogs to give the monkey something to think about before coming close, but the monkey tamed all six within ten minutes. At first, the monkey stood out of the reach of the dogs which were kept on leads, and then smacked them in the face when they became tired of barking at him. Startled, the dogs became timid in its presence.

The farmer said he had to turn to agricultural officials to have the monkey captured. It was the officials' anesthetic dart gun that finally ended the intruder's visits with the farmer.

In the mountain villages of Wulu and Litao where farmers grow cabbage and green pepper, the wild monkeys seem to know better than the farmers when the crops become ripe. They raid the fields in the hundreds, not only eating until they are full but also ravaging the nearby crops before the farmers can harvest them.

As if knowing that they are protected by law, the monkeys are not easily frightened away by the farmers when they see them coming.