In hopes of making a fortune from ecotourism, villagers coaxed 73 wild rhesus macaque monkeys into Xianfeng Village in Sichuan. But the scheme seems to have backfired, the tourists are no longer coming and the monkeys are driving the locals bananas.
13 years ago, the leader of the village, He Youliang, led farmers up a nearby mountain and enticed 73 macaque monkeys into the village with corn, reports Chengdu Business Daily. They fed the monkeys daily to keep them from returning back to the mountains.
Mr. He convinced an investor to start a company to develop an ecotourism business in the village, with “monkey-watching” as their top attraction. It built roads, planned activities and looked after the monkeys.
The industry reached its peak between 2011 and 2014, with thousands of tourists visiting the village during weekends and holidays to see the macaque monkeys. Villagers reaped considerable profit through simple businesses such as selling food at attractions. They grew fond of the little rainmakers, and bestowed upon Mr. He the title of “Monkey King.”
However, the monkeys that once brought in fortunes, eventually became a source of misfortune for the village.
After the head of the tourism company passed away, the business was thrown into disarray. While the revenues started dwindling last year, the monkey population remained enormous. More than 600 monkeys share the village with the villagers.
The company has not been able to afford taking care of the monkeys since last year, owing around 110,000 RMB from purchasing feed. A manager at the tourism company revealed to reporters that the business venture was badly planned to begin with. Despite the apparent popularity of the attractions, the company often barely made enough to cover the salaries of workers. It stopped its operations altogether last month.
The villagers naively assumed that once they stopped feeding the monkeys, they would return to their natural habitat up in the mountains. Little did they expect that the monkeys would adapt to their comfortable life in the village and now rely on humans for sustenance. Without regular feed, the macaques explored other sources of food, specifically the village’s farms. Some villagers even gave up planting corn after monkeys destroyed their harvest.
This left villagers with only one heartbreaking option: recovering their livelihood by dumping their long-time friends.
Last year, the government forestry administration managed to catch 300 monkeys and ship them elsewhere, according to WCC Daily. The villagers remain unsure what to do with the 300 left. Mr. He, the “Monkey King,” led villagers to repeatedly drive them back to the mountain by scaring them with dogs, but they always return and continue their misbehavior.
Though the villagers feel guilty and sad for shattering the cross-species friendship, the Forestry Administration pointed out that helping a species means protecting its natural habitat, not meddling with nature and causing it to rely on humans. Sadly, monkeys tend to have a hard time letting go of their human providers, sometimes even physically.
It’s the Year of the Monkey and they know it:
By Amy Yang
[Images via WCC Daily / Flickr]