The Apsara National Authority (ANA) captured 16 macaque monkeys that had been living in and around the Bayon Temple compound.
The ANA noted that operations to capture nuisance monkeys at the temple and relocate them happened almost every year because they become accustomed to people, especially if they are fed.
The ANA said their plan was to take the monkeys to the Phnom Tamao Zoo, but only temporarily. They would quarantine them there and observe them for any signs of illness.
If they appear to be in good health they will be released into the wild again but into an area that is free of tourists and other people.
The ANA emphasised that no monkeys would be harmed or killed as a result of this operation.
The monkeys had been disturbing tourists recently and there was some concern that their presence could damage the temple ruins by causing wear and tear on them over time.
The ANA said some of the wild monkeys had become too accustomed to receiving food from tourists and other people and this had effectively domesticated them, turning them into animals more akin to pets, but not entirely given their frequent habits of stealing food and biting people.
Not being accustomed to spending time around a couple of dozen hungry macaque monkeys, some tourists were alarmed and complained to park authorities.
According to an ANA notice on December 28, in addition to causing disturbances involving tourists the monkeys had posed a risk to the temples by inadvertently knocking stones loose and causing other minor damage that could become a problem if it accumulated over time.
ANA spokesman Long Kosal said when they decided to intervene and capture the monkeys, they went to the officials at the Forestry Administration who readily agreed to help with the effort.
There were some members of the public who frowned upon the monkey removal raid, according to Kosal.
“[I told them] these monkeys are no longer afraid of people because people have been feeding them. Now, when people don’t feed them the monkeys get upset and steal the food anyways and even bite people.
“They are wild animals and need to be moved into the forest for their own good, but also because they have bitten tourists and could damage the temples. We asked for everyone’s cooperation to safeguard the public, the temples, and the monkeys themselves,” he said.
Kosal added that 16 macaque monkeys had been captured so far, but efforts were still ongoing.
Kosal denied rumours that had been spread about the death of two of the monkeys. He said the monkeys in question had been rendered unconscious by a dart with a sedative in it, a common practice used to subdue wild animals without harming them.
The monkeys were darted by experienced animal handlers from the Animal Rescue and Treatment Office and no lasting harm was done to them.
Sek Seng, deputy chief of the Animal Rescue and Treatment Office under the Forestry Administration, said the monkeys will be temporarily kept at the Phnom Tamao Zoo.
“We will take them there first so that specialists can observe them and take care of their health. When the time is right, we will release them into a forest that is part of a wildlife sanctuary guarded by rangers. We think they will be safe there,” he said.
The authorities are continuing to search for more macaque monkeys thought to be present in the Angkor Park area to join the 16 already in custody, first at the zoo and then at their new home in a sanctuary.