THE public should not carry plastic bags to the Penang Botanic Gardens to prevent from being attacked by monkeys.
The monkeys there associated colourful, transparent bags with food and would rush to grab them from visitors, State Wildlife and National Parks Department director Hasnan Yusop said.
“Monkeys are opportunists and will not hesitate to act when they think there is food. Backpacks and sling bags are all right but monkeys get excited when they see plastic bags because visitors often feed these primates groundnuts and bread brought into the gardens in these bags,” he said, adding that the department would suggest to gardens curator Lim Boon Teong to prohibit visitors from bringing food into the gardens.
“Currently, there are signboards warning visitors against feeding the monkeys but it would be more effective if we were to prevent people from bringing food in all together,” he said.
Last year, the department received about 300 complaints on aggressive monkey attacks from all over the state, he said, noting that surveys conducted by the department showed that most visitors who were attacked were carrying plastic bags.
“About six months ago, we planted about 1,000 commercial fruit trees on 161 hectares of green lung area outside the Botanic Gardens.
“This pilot project is meant to make the area more habitable for monkeys so that their population inside the gardens can be reduced.
“Once the trees start bearing fruit in a few years, we will move some of the monkeys to the new habitat. Then we will be able to gauge the effectiveness of the project.
“If successful, we will recom-mend that hotels in the Tanjung Bunga and Batu Ferringhi areas plant fruit trees to prevent monkeys from causing chaos on their premises,” he said, adding that the monkey population in the gardens was 300 last year.
“There are seven groups, each led by an alpha male. Most attacks are by the older alpha males which can bite off a finger if provoked,” he said.
A reader, who only wanted to be known as Jeff, wrote to The Star recently claiming that the he was nearly attacked by a group of “aggressive monkeys” when visiting the Botanic Gardens.
“My friend and I were walking along the pathway when a group of monkeys suddenly came down from the trees nearby and tried to attack us.
“Sensing trouble, I quickly took off my belt and got ready to fend off the monkeys. One of them looked like it was about to bite us, baring its teeth to intimidate us.
“I swung my belt a few times and they slowly retreated. Luckily I had something to defend myself with, otherwise I might have ended up with a few stitches,” he said, adding that the authorities should act before something happened to visitors.