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Monkey Business

by Tom Armstrong

Over the past few years we have been doing our best the regenerate the forest in our land in Sri Lanka. Our protection and conservation efforts can be measured in various abstract ways. However, one sign that we hadn’t considered has recently reared its head (and teeth!). We know that we are definitely doing something right by the sudden arrival of monkeys to both our forest and farming area. Where we previously grew fruits for years without any hassle, the pesky buggers have re-appeared from neighbouring jungles and are feasting on our papayas and other sweet fruit.

Guyan the monkey man...

Guyan the monkey man…

Flattering as it is that the monkeys appreciate our efforts in reforestation and the increasing yield on the fruit & vegetable patch, they need to be stopped, or it will only be a matter of time before they are sneaking around the kitchen when our backs are turned or riffling through guest’s bags (I recall thinking I had been robbed in a hotel near Sigiriya before, only to find a monkey was the one going through my wallet!).

Disposable plastic found on a beachBlack labrador puppyWedding in the rain in 2020
Becky and Rowley's wedding, October 2020
Sam exploring with her family in cornwall

So we are faced with the question of how to keep them at bay and dissuade them from getting too comfortable on our patch. Opinions vary (with the air riffle the most popular) and we like one idea about making a scarecrow in the shape of another species of monkey (our friend swears this will work). However, we have settled on the following tactic for now until we can build such a creature:

Guyan, our youngest and most energetic member of staff has been given the task of chief watchman. He is to keep at least 2 of our dogs with him when doing his sporadic patrols. When the monkeys are spotted helping themselves, he sets the dogs on them and shouts and lights firecrackers at them as they retreat. The general belief is that monkeys have good memories and the more we can scare them the less likely they are to feel comfortable here. The further away the dogs can chase them the better. This is not an ideal method, as the firecrackers are not good for the other wildlife too (one of the owls looked particularly unimpressed this afternoon), but we feel we have to do it this way for now at least. The Jack fruits and Mangoes are under threat and we just can’t have that!

My girlfriend and I had a similar problem here before with lizards eating the long beans we were growing for our special Thai salads. This problem was solved with a simple traditional fencing technique we borrowed from some friends in the Knuckles Mountains. The monkeys however are a little more agile and able. Any ideas or similar experience anyone has to share would be gratefully received. I will update on our progress in our ‘Operation Monkey’ in due course…

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