TOKYO – People in a southwestern Japanese city have come under attack from monkeys that are trying to snatch babies, biting and clawing at flesh, and sneaking into nursery schools.
The attacks — on 58 people since July 8 — are getting so bad Yamaguchi city hall hired a special unit to hunt the animals with tranquilizer guns.
The monkeys aren’t interested in food, so traps haven’t worked. They have targeted mostly children and the elderly.
“They are so smart, and they tend to sneak up and attack from behind, often grabbing at your legs,” city official Masato Saito said Wednesday.
When confronted by a monkey, the instructions are: Do not look them in the eye, make yourself look as big as possible, such as by spreading open your coat, then back away as quietly as possible without making sudden moves, according to Saito.
A woman was assaulted by a monkey while hanging laundry on her veranda. Another victim showed bandaged toes. They were taken aback and frightened by how big and fat the monkeys were.
The monkeys terrorizing the community are Japanese macaque, the kind often pictured peacefully bathing in hot springs.
One male monkey, measuring 49 centimeters (1.6 foot) in height and weighing 7 kilograms (15 pounds), was caught Tuesday by the team with the tranquilizer gun. It was judged by various evidence to be one of the attacking monkeys and put to death.
But more attacks were reported after the capture.
No one has been seriously injured so far. But all have been advised to get hospital treatment. Ambulances were called in some cases.
Although Japan is industrialized and urban, a fair portion of land in the archipelago is mountains and forests. Rare attacks on people by a bear, boars or other wildlife have occurred, but generally not by monkeys.
No one seems to know why the attacks have occurred, and where exactly the troop of monkeys came from remains unclear.
“I have never seen anything like this my entire life,” Saito said.
Yuri Kageyama is on Twitter https://twitter.com/yurikageyama