Monkey Mayhem in Bukit Timah

They crawl along wires...
They jump on roof...
They fight with family and maids over trapped baby monkey

Arul John, The New Paper 12 Mar 08;

THEY wanted to hit back at the monkeys which had been tormenting them for three months.

So the occupants of a semi-detached house in Binjai Park, Bukit Timah, decided to set a trap for the pests. They succeeded in trapping a baby monkey in a cage provided by the Agri-food and Veterinary Authority (AVA).

What they didn't take into account was how the other monkeys would react to one of their own being trapped.

A troop of them descended on the house and created nearly three hours of monkey mayhem. Some gathered around the cage howling and screeching. One of the bigger ones even entered the house, baring its teeth, and chased its occupants up to the bedroom.

The elderly home-owners and their two maids ended up barricading themselves in the hall and kitchen while they waited for help.

The incident ended only after AVA officers arrived to take away the trapped monkey.

It had capped a conflict between man and beast that had started in December.

One of the maids, Madam P Nayana, 54, said groups of long-tailed monkeys had been bothering them regularly.

She said they usually came in groups of three or four and entered the house by climbing up the electrical wires outside or the trees in the garden.


Madam Nayana said: 'The monkeys would go to to the kitchen and grab the sweet potatoes or bananas there. Sometimes, they would go to the hall and grab the mandarin oranges left there from Chinese New Year.

'They would then go to the garden to eat the food.'

Madam Nayana said her 72-year-old employer, whom she knew only as Mrs Lee, decided to get a cage from the AVA to trap the monkeys.

She said: 'She got the cage on 11 Jan and we put it out in the garden. We placed bananas and oranges inside and outside the cage to lure the monkeys.

'But they were smart and only ate the food outside the cage.'

Then, at 4.30pm on 29 Feb, Madam Nayana was watching TV when she heard a loud click.

She said: 'I went to the hall and saw a baby monkey in the cage. It had gone in to eat the oranges in the cage and got trapped.

'There were nine other monkeys in the garden and some started howling when the monkey was caught.'

The Lees' other maid, Ms Juliet Castaneda, 33, and Madam Nayana's daughter, Miss E. Nirosha, 23, were at the back of the house when they heard the commotion.

Ms Castaneda said: 'I was gathering the laundry outside when I saw one of the monkeys above the trellis where I had hung the clothes. I got scared and went to the kitchen, but was shocked to see one of the monkeys at the kitchen doorway.'

Miss Nirosha, a student at a private school here, said the monkey was about 45cm tall, had a banana in its mouth and bared its sharp teeth.

Madam Nayana grabbed a wooden walking stick and hit it on the tiled floor to frighten the monkey away, but it went after her instead.

She said: 'I ran upstairs but the monkey started to follow me. Mr Lee was sleeping in a bedroom downstairs and Mrs Lee was in an upstairs room.

'She came out upon hearing the commotion and was shocked and scared when she saw the monkey. We tried to chase it away but the monkey bared its teeth again and chased us upstairs again.'

Ms Nirosha said: 'It then tried to go back into the kitchen but Ms Castaneda and I ran in and closed the door, leaving the monkey outside. I was so scared as monkeys in my homeland, Sri Lanka, are not so aggressive.'

Madam Nayana said Mrs Lee then called the AVA and went downstairs to close the wooden doors between the garden and living room.

She said: 'We tried to close the doors to stop the other monkeys from entering the house, but the big monkey rushed there and jumped in and out between the living room and the garden.'

Miss Nirosha said: 'Every time my mother tried to close the doors, the monkey would come between them and bare its teeth. After she beat the floor with a stick several times, the monkey fled to the garden and we closed the doors.'

When Madam Nayana went to one of the bedrooms on the ground floor, she saw another monkey climbing onto the window sill.

She said: 'The monkey tried to get in but the window grilles blocked it. I jabbed at it with a stick for a few minutes before it finally climbed down.'

Madam Nayana said she and MsCastaneda then closed the other doors and windows and did not re-open them until 7pm.

Nobody was bitten or injured by the monkeys.

She said: 'When the AVA staff came at 6pm to collect the trapped monkey, the other monkeys in the garden started screeching. The AVA staff took the cage to their van, transferred the monkey to another cage, left our cage in the driveway and drove off.

'The monkeys then climbed along the rooftops of the neighbouring houses to follow the van.'

Mr Madhavan Kannan, head of AVA's Centre for Animal Welfare and Control, said: 'When the two AVA officers were collecting the trapped baby monkey, the other monkeys on the trees close by were behaving in a threatening manner. They did not attack our officers.'

He said the captured monkey was put down. It was not practical to relocate it elsewhere as it would be unable to survive on its own.

Madam Nayana said the monkeys have not returned to the house since.

She said: 'I think the capture of their young one scared them off. But we are more careful now and keep all the doors and windows closed unless absolutely necessary.'

Two other homes in the area have also encountered monkey problems.

One of the home-owners, who wanted to be known only as MrChong, said: 'The monkeys usually just climb into the garden and eat the fruits from the trees. They have never terrorised people before.'

How to avoid a monkey attack

THE Agri-food and Veterinary Authority said it caught 206 monkeys in Singapore last year, 15 of them in the Binjai Park area.

Two monkeys were caught in the area this year, including the baby in this incident.

Mr Madhavan Kannan of the AVA said the most common monkeys here are long-tailed macaques, which come from nearby forested areas.

He said trapped monkeys are put down because it is impractical to relocate them.

They would pose a problem while looking for food or get into fights with other monkey troops.

Here are some tips on how to keep monkeys away:

  • Do not feed them as they will rely on humans for food
  • Build fences with barbed wires around homes
  • Close windows and doors while monkeys are around
  • Spray water to frighten monkeys away if they get too close
  • Close refuse bins tightly to prevent monkeys from foraging for food
  • Do not keep fruits and other foodstuff in the open when monkeys are nearby
  • If bitten by monkeys, wash the wound immediately with soap and water, and then get medical care.