Monkeys cause chaos during social distancing orders on Chàm Islands

August 12, 2021 - 08:24
Experts from the Chàm Island Maritime Protected Area (MPA) and Hội An are looking to drive monkeys back to the forest after the animals broke into houses.


Two monkeys on notice on Chàm Islands, off the coast of Hội An. Groups of monkeys have been found seeking food in houses and gardens of families living near the forest. — Photo courtesy of Huỳnh Thị Thùy Hương 

CHÀM ISLANDS — Experts from the Chàm Island Maritime Protected Area (MPA) and Hội An are looking to drive monkeys back to the forest after the animals broke into houses.

The macaques were searching for food along Bãi Làng and Bãi Xếp beaches on the Islands.

Authorities said dozens of monkeys left the forest and entered homes in the area.

The animals were found getting closer to living areas in the last three years, with more visits since social distancing measures were implemented from late April.

Chairwoman of the islands’ people’s committee, Phạm Thị Mỹ Hương, said the monkeys didn't seem to be scared off by people.

She said monkeys broke into houses to get rice and food in the kitchen and fruit from the gardens.

She said residents reported that some monkeys even took a rice cooker.

Hương said islanders were warned not to harm the monkeys as the Chàm Islands are part of a protected biosphere site.

Residents were told to lock doors, gates and gardens, as well as install fences and shutters on windows.

Huỳnh Thị Thùy Hương from the Chàm Island Maritime Protected Area (MPA) said the incidents result from the rapid growth of the monkey population and limited food supply in recent years.

She said monkeys have become familiar with food given by tourists visiting the islands, and now they climb down the mountain in search of sustenance from travellers and residents.

Hương said MPA and the Centre for Biodiversity Conservation Research GreenViet have been working to protect endangered flora and fauna on the islands as well as primates.     

Director of GreenViet, Trần Hữu Vỹ, said the group has been tracking the habitat and population of the monkeys and food chains in forests on Chàm Islands to limit risks of conflict with humans.

He said social distancing orders due to COVID-19 delayed field surveys and trips among conservationists.

Waters off Chàm Islands are safe for boats docking during holidays. The islands' tourism has been damaged by COVID-19 over the past two years. — VNS Photo Công Thành 

Some residents attempted to drive the animals away by banging on metal pots, but they are warned to keep a distance so as to avoid being bitten or attacked, Hương said.

Islanders were warned not to feed monkeys fruit, snacks or bread.

She said Bãi Xếp Beach – at the foot of the mountain and nearest to forest – saw a gathering of 15 monkeys.

According to the latest report by GreenViet, at least eight groups of Rhesus macaques with nearly 90 individuals have been found living in the forests on the hills of the islands.

Chàm Islands-Hội An (including the total area of the Islands’ land and water and Hội An), which was recognised as a World Biosphere Reserve in 2009, 20km off the coast of Hội An, covers more than 33,000ha, including 1,500ha of tropical forests and 6,700ha of sea, featuring a wide range of marine fauna and flora.

The islands and buffer zones hosted around 1.5 million tourists per year, but the COVID-19 pandemic damaged the prosperous tourism growth on the islands and Hội An in 2020-21.

However, experts from the MPA said reduced tourism activities and waste around the Chàm Islands – a world biodiversity reserve site – would help the marine ecosystem in waters off the islands recover following an ecological system and coral reefs programme in 2020-21. — VNS