Humans and monkeys have coexisted for a long time — and peacefully, for the most part. However, according to WHO, “Monkey bites account for 2–21% of animal bite injuries. In India, for example, two studies found monkeys to be second to dogs as the most common source of animal bite injuries.” Recently, a 10-year-old boy from Gandhinagar, Gujarat, was playing with his friends when he was attacked by a monkey and later succumbed to his injuries. This is not an isolated incident, as such stories are commonly heard, especially in the places where humans and monkeys frequently interact. With rising concern surrounding such incidents, Happiest Health spoke to experts to try and understand how to avoid such situations.
Monkey attacks: Why have they become more common?
With human encroachment, monkeys have less space to live in. Food, too, can become an issue. “Monkeys can become aggressive in the mating season,” informs Dr Chandreshkumar Shanadre, deputy conservator of forest, Gandhinagar Forest Division. “Typically, the leader of the pack kicks out the younger male monkeys, as a result of which, they become aggressive. Later, these monkeys can overthrow the leader, and the cycle of aggression continues. Moreover, female monkeys with little ones can become highly protective of their babies. This leads to aggressive behavior, and humans who come in the way could get bitten.”
Further, Dr R Sahu, veterinarian and adviser of Ahmedabad Zoo, Ahmedabad, says, “When monkeys get hurt because of humans, it can scare them. In later interactions, they become more prone to attacking people.” Besides, loud noises and even excessive heat can cause monkeys to become more aggressive.
What diseases are caused by monkey bites?
Being scratched or bitten by a monkey can inflict lasting damage. Besides causing a serious wound, monkey bites can also lead to serious diseases. Dr Mona Desai, pediatrician, Ahmedabad, Gujarat, shares that rabies is the most common disease transmitted by monkey bites.
A large number of macaque monkeys, which are commonly found in India, are carriers of the Herpes B virus. The condition is mostly asymptomatic and if left untreated, has a high mortality rate. Besides, survivors can have long-term disabilities resulting from the condition.
How to avoid monkey bites?
Dr Shanadre says, “A monkey does not attack alone since they are scared. They usually attack in groups.” He advises maintaining a distance of 50-70 ft to stay safe.
Another key reason for the monkey population to increase in some areas is the easy availability of food. Sometimes people feed the monkeys, which makes them lose their natural instincts to hunt for food.
Dr Sahu says, “Monkeys are intelligent creatures. If they know they are getting food from the visitors, they stop looking for it elsewhere. However, if anybody is caught feeding the monkeys, they will be punished under the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act.”
What to do when a monkey bites?
Monkey bites are not to be taken lightly. According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, US, one should wash the scratch or bite wound thoroughly with soap and seek medical treatment immediately. Dr Desai adds, “It is crucial to get vaccinated for rabies after a monkey bite. Also, get the tetanus shot if you haven’t been vaccinated against it within the past five years.”
- Monkey bites can lead to diseases such as rabies and HIV, besides serious wounds.
- Maintain a safe distance from monkeys and avoid trying to feed them to avoid monkey bites.
- In case a monkey bites you, clean the wound and seek medical advice. Doctors also recommend taking rabies and tetanus shots.