'Primate Kingdom' in the making

Natural park authorities have come up with an idea to create a "primate kingdom" after taking care of the animals seized from wildlife smuggling rings for years.

All the confiscated animals, in effect "evidence" in court cases, have been brought to the Kabok Koo Beast Feeding Center in Chachoengsao province, a unit under the Department of National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservation.

Teerapat Prayoonsit, director-general of the department, told Matichon daily there are 400 monkeys at the centre and another 100 gibbons and langurs, all seized from smugglers.

To put them into good use, the department plans to turn the centre into a primate kingdom.

Space will be divided for the five breeds of the animals — long-tailed, pig-tailed, Assam, stump-tailed and Rhesus macaques, as well as for gibbons and langurs.

They will be well treated and have better quality of life. People can come visit to learn more about these primates.

At the same time, the centre will train these monkeys to become "police" and help the department's officials with their works.

"We found monkeys living in the wild near communities in 50 areas. There are 300-500 in each area and they create troubles for residents like those in Lop Buri and Khao Chong Krajok in Prachuap Khiri Kan," he explained.

"Over time, they become emboldened and start ransacking houses. Some people even moved away because of them,"

The troublesome monkeys are mainly long-tailed macaques, which are small, smart and very naughty.

But by nature, long-tailed macaques are afraid of their bigger and smarter cousins — the pig-tailed macaques (the type trained to pick coconuts in the South).

These pig-tailed macaques will be trained to assist officials in scaring their smaller cousins away from communities.

"We start training pig-tailed macaques of six months to one year old in what we call the monkey college at the centre. They are learning to take orders from trainers and the next phase they will receive crowd-control training which should take at least one year," Mr Teerapat said.

Once they graduate, they will be released near communities molested by the long-tailed macaques. The pig-tailed ones will act as the police to keep the long-tailed macaques at bay, he said.

"Besides, they can help our researchers pick plant samples in high places," Mr Teerapat added.

Asked whether he is sure the police monkeys can handle the Lop Buri primates which are long well known for their mischief, Mr Teerapat said it's a natural pecking order but more than one police monkey may be needed in the area.

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