It may not exactly be Planet of the Apes, but Indonesian officials have launched an all-out assault on a group of aggressive monkeys responsible for a rash of attacks and vandalism on the island of Java. The perpetrators--long-tailed macaques native to the island--have become increasingly hostile in recent months, carrying out a string of violent attacks against children and older people and opportunistically nicking food and other goods from unsuspecting residents.
According to Reuters, the gang of monkeys are aggressive, focused on food and targeted against normal human norms. Local Javanese officials have set up an elite monkey task force consisting of police officers, soldiers, villagers and hunters to combat the onslaught. Newsweek magazine estimates the monkey invasion will be supplemented by more than one hundred officers and police personel. In the past two months, local monkeys have attacked a number of seniors living in ramshackle, temporary housing, and at least one child, a teen-ager. Indonesian officials say they will focus on trapping the macaques, if possible. But the elite monkey-fighting team will shoot monkeys down if they are caught red handed in an attack.
Among the recent attacks:
An 80-year-old man was set upon when he headed outside to relieve himself. Monkeys tore the flesh on his leg, according to Newsweek.
An 82-year-old grandfather required 42 stitches after being swooped upon after using a stick to stop chickens from congregating around his coop.
Animal rights groups like Indonesia's Animal Rescue say the situation is man-made and a result of loss of food and territory for the macaques. Macaques live comfortably in pine and teak forest, which they have been chased out of thanks to commercial forestry. The loss of habitat and food, activists say, has led to the stand-off in Java. Even so, IAR spokesman Robithotul Huta concedes traditional measures to scare macaques away, including fireworks, slingshots and other shocks are only temporary. "But monkeys are intelligent," Huta told the UK's Sun. "If the people have used a slingshot, tomorrow they have to use something else."