The APSARA National Authority (ANA) called on the public to stop feeding monkeys so that they can return to their natural state. The simians are becoming a danger to the visitors and residents of the Angkor Archaeological Park, it said.
The warning followed a marked increase in the park’s population of semi-domesticated monkeys, who are seemingly dependant on humans for food.
“Many of them no longer forage for food in the forest, but wait for tourists to share it with them. And worse, they sometimes snatch food violently, which poses a risk to the safety of humans,” it said.
Lek Kimlin, head of a tourism agency at Angkor Wat, said the number of monkeys at the temple has increased in recent years.
“The monkeys harass visitors to the temples, and sometimes even bite them. Sometimes they bite people when they are trying to take their food. They also search through rubbish bins looking for food scraps, and leave a terrible mess,” he said.
Sean Bandith, head of a tourism agency at Angkor Thom, said there may be several hundred monkeys around the temple grounds.
“The monkeys bite the tourists, snatch items like phones and bags from them and even damage the tourist facilities around the temple. In addition, they have even broken the windshield of several vehicles,” he added.
On February 16, three NGOs – Action for Primates, Lady Freethinker and Stop Monkey Abuse Asia – released a joint report on monkeys in the Angkor Park area, indicating that the animals continue to be harassed. Some tourist operators video and photograph the monkeys, causing them stress and encouraging them to interact with humans.
The NGOs are campaigning to end the “persecution, exploitation and abuse” of monkeys at Angkor Wat, a popular UNESCO World Heritage Site and also a monkey sanctuary.
ANA spokesman Long Kosal told The Post on February 23 that the monkeys, which have become comfortable around humans but sometimes become very aggressive, disturbed tourists almost daily.
“This is because some individuals use monkeys in the Angkor area as a tool to market their own interests, as well as people feeding them,” he said.
“The monkeys threaten to bite and snatch tourists’ belongings, which frightens many of them. Many visitors have complained that there are too many monkeys here. When they occasionally tried to steal food, it wasn’t a major problem, but now, if food is not given to them, they bite.”