Monkey attacks: How to avoid them

Reading about Jason Biggs recent experience being attacked by a monkey in Gibraltar reminded me of my own attack by a monkey. Okay, okay, so it only bit me on my thumb. Lightly. The bite barely broke the skin. But, it did give me anxiety later when I had a brief moment of thinking that I had rabies about two weeks after my two-year stint as a Peace Corps volunteer in The Gambia had ended. My thumb was numb and I felt ill.

The doctors in the emergency room in Rochester, New York where I was visiting a friend assured me that I did not have rabies. Whew! But, as Jason’s story illustrates–and my own points out, monkeys can bite and its best to not get them riled up if you happen to be traveling where they live. In my case, the monkey was a young one that had been captured and being kept as a pet in my village. Not by me, but people who I used to visit.

In other cases, the monkeys and people come into contact because the monkeys just happen to live where the people do, like in some sections of New Delhi, India where they can be like squirrels are in the U.S. You may recall the incident in 2007 when the deputy mayor of New Delhi was attacked by monkeys, fell of his balcony, and died the next day as a result of his head injuries. Monkeys also frequent temples in India.

Or in another scenario you may be hiking in monkey territory. Wherever monkeys are, it’s good to know how not to get attacked. There are ways.

1. Don’t put your hand out in a monkey’s direction. I don’t think I put my hand out, but how did that monkey bite my thumb? It’s a blur by now.

2. If you’re carrying food and the monkey wants it, for heavens sake, give it to the monkey. If a monkey comes at you, it’s likely to want what you have in your hand. Friends of mine recounted a tale where a monkey snatched their young daughter’s milk carton right out of her hand when they were at some park in Thailand. I think, they were in Thailand, or perhaps somewhere in Micronesia where they used to live.

3. As a response to number 2, don’t carry food around monkeys if you can avoid it.

Here are other suggestions I found in a World Hum article from last December:

  • Make sure you keep water bottles hidden from a monkey’s view
  • If the monkey thinks you have food, but you don’t, show your empty palms.
  • Stand your ground if a monkey does attack. Show your teeth as a sign of aggression. Showing weakness brings them on.
  • If a monkey shows aggression, i.e, blinks, shows its teeth, yawns or smiles wide, don’t make eye contact and walk away.

This article also offers advice if you are attacked.

  • Shake a stick at the monkey, and if that doesn’t work, rap it on the head with the stick.
  • Form an O shape with your mouth, lean forward and raise your eyebrows

For more detailed advice and an explanation of monkey behavior, the World Hum article has excellent information. The post also presents a rundown of where monkeys are most prevalent. Jason Biggs was in one of them. They are:

India, Gibraltar, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and Cape Town, South Africa