“I have never seen anything like this my entire life.”
For the past few weeks, residents of the Japanese city of Yamaguchi have found themselves besieged by violent gangs of macaque monkeys.
The seditious simians have attacked at least 58 people so far, the Associated Press reports, targeting everyone from children to the elderly. They’ve even attempted to snatch babies.
"They are so smart, and they tend to sneak up and attack from behind, often grabbing at your legs," Yamaguchi city official Masato Saito told the AP. "I have never seen anything like this my entire life."
It's been an especially terrifying time for parents. Speaking to the Mainichi Shimbun and reported by Agence France-Presse, one father tells of their child's harrowing encounter with a wild monkey.
"I heard crying coming from the ground floor so I hurried down," the man said. "Then I saw a monkey hunching over my child."
That was only one encounter of many, with another report saying a four-year-old girl was scratched after a monkey broke into her family's apartment.
Fortunately, no one has been seriously injured so far.
Monkey attacks on humans are not unheard of in the area, "but it’s rare to see this many attacks in a short period of time," another city official told AFP.
Efforts were made to capture the monkeys with traps, but were unsuccessful because the monkeys were not interested in food. Police have since turned to patrolling with tranquilizer guns.
It’s not clear just how many monkeys are responsible for the attacks, but at least one of the marauding macaques has been caught and put down.
Once endangered in Japan, the macaque population has recovered thanks to long-standing conservation efforts. Evidently, this came with certain unintended consequences.
And if the monkeys are allowed to keep this up, things could only get worse for Yamaguchi residents.
"If humans give them many opportunities to learn, they might cause more conflict," primate expert Hiroto Enari told the New York Times.
Hopefully authorities can get this sorted out before too many humans — or monkeys — are harmed.