The human zoo on Monkey Hill
My family has made a few trips to Monkey Hill in recent years. The hikes and trails are fun and easy for my daughter and we enjoy the views of the reservoir, the plant and wildlife. We are respectful of the monkeys, whose turf we are stepping on and are careful to be discreet whenever we stop to eat our snacks.
However, every time we’ve been there, we’ve seen people openly disregarding the signs warning visitors not to feed the wild monkeys. We’ve tried explaining to people that unlike the over-zealous rules banning ball-games and bicycles in playgrounds, the rules against feeding are sensible and necessary. As this SCMP article from 2014 points out, the monkey population has grown bigger than the natural food sources in the mountains can sustain, the animals have become dependent on humans as a food source and are losing the ability to forage.
The article goes onto say the government is trying to control the growth of population size through sterilization but from the number of baby monkeys we saw yesterday, this is no easy task.
As for the human food sources, well we saw people throwing peanuts and tossing fruit and bread to the monkeys. Sometimes this was accompanied by panicky squeals and frantic laughter. One woman threw plastic packets of crackers and cookies at the monkeys. The she waved her umbrella at them to shoo them away when they tried to approach her for more. Later on, my daughter pointed out a monkey putting the contents of a packet of popping candy in its mouth.
And not just about feeding. It’s clear there are some people who think it’s OK to hurt and abuse the monkeys. Earlier this year, an off-duty policeman was arrested for shooting at monkeys with an air-rifle. And as we waited for our bus home, we saw a man walking with his young family and holding up a cigarette lighter to attract the monkeys, who thought it was food. As they came close, he lit the lighter, terrifying the monkeys. We saw him do this to several monkeys to the delighted laughter and applause of his two young sons.
Even more than the irresponsible feeding, this sight saddened and disturbed me. What a message to be teaching young children at a country park – that it is fun and funny to mock and maim animals for our entertainment.