Eighteen monkeys living in the neighbourhood of Srah Chak and Wat Phnom communes in the capital’s Daun Penh district were rounded up and taken to the Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Center (PTWRC) to protect the animals and nearby residents.
The monkeys were taken away on December 6 by wildlife officers from the municipal Forestry Administration in collaboration with animal handling specialists from the PTWRC.
Municipal Forestry Administration director Koam Seiha told The Post that in the past two years, the number of monkeys around Wat Phnom has steadily increased and the small patch of forest around the landmark was not productive enough to feed them all.
Faced with food shortages, some of the monkeys, especially the larger ones that have reached reproductive age, were roaming the surrounding neighbourhood and would sometimes attack young children to steal food and were generally being nuisances.
The PTWRC will keep the monkeys in quarantine for a period of time to make sure they are not carrying any infectious diseases before releasing them into the centre’s forest habitat.
“We used anaesthetics and nets to catch the 18 monkeys and then we sent them to PTWRC where there is ample forest land with food for them and they will have better lives there,” he said.
Seiha said many of the monkeys taken had gotten into the habit of invading people’s homes for food. They are loved by the people living in the area when they are young and so they feed them, but when the monkeys grow up and they no longer get free food, they begin to steal fruits, cakes, fish, meat and even open cans of soda.
Koam Seiha suggested that the public refrain from dealing with the monkeys themselves by harming them or setting traps to catch them. Instead, they should report them to the authorities when they are disrupting their daily lives while trained professionals address the problem.
He said most of the monkeys in the capital do not live in trees, but on the rooftops of old buildings to the south of Preah Ket Mealea Hospital, making it harder for officials to catch.
Prak Sophat, 42, a resident of Srah Chak commune, told The Post that he and the other villagers living near the hospital were relieved to see authorities take the monkeys away.
“I was happy to see them catching the monkeys because some of them were vicious and would steal food and even steal clothes that we were drying in front of the house or on balconies and when we tried to chase them off with sticks, they’d jump at us and bite us. They are not afraid of us,” he said.
Tep Phally, 56, a resident of Wat Phnom commune, said some of her children were bitten by monkeys and that they grabbed bread and ripe bananas from her children before because when the monkeys were small, her kids used to feed them.
“Small monkeys are gentle and cute. But when they grow up they become vicious and dare to bite those who used to feed them fruit when they were small. Two of my children were once bitten, clawed and chased by the monkeys,” she said.