In a Thai village, homes are raided, property is pinched and locals are attacked by dastardly gangs operating beyond the law — but the perpetrators are not men, but monkeys.
Around 150 households in the shrimp farming community in Chachoengsao province on the east coast, 80 kilometres (50 miles) from Bangkok, have suffered raids by so-called “sea monkeys” — long-tailed macaques — for about a decade.
An increasing number of shrimp farms, coupled with the associated deforestation, is thought to be behind a surge in monkeys venturing into built-up areas.
Conservation group WWF said people have encroached on the monkeys’ habitat — not the other way around.
The spread of villages into formerly dense jungle has caused other clashes between people and beasts in Thailand.
And the WWF says the problem is accelerating.
In a recent report, the conservation group said demand for farmland could strip the Greater Mekong region — Thailand, Cambodia, Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam — of a third of its remaining forest cover over the next two decades without swift government action.
Between 1973 — the first point of available data — and 2009, Thailand lost some 43 percent of its natural woodland, the WWF said, although it praised the country for its network of national parks.
Khlong Charoen Wai’s monkeys spend their days hanging out on the narrow bamboo bridges that meander across the coastal swampland at the edge of the village.
Mothers lounge with babies slung across their chests, while others leap between nearby mangrove trees.
They tend to flee when approached. But when nobody seems to be looking, they climb onto roofs, leaving trails of muddy footprints as they stalk into homes through any openings they can find.
Residents have been forced to seal their houses with nets, lock their windows despite the tropical heat, and secure their property the best they can.
Local authorities tried to curb the monkey raids — even attempting to sterilise the intruders. But that effort was on too small a scale according to deputy village head Tawin Songcharoen.