Mystery As 24 Monkeys, Mostly Male, Found Dead Near Highway

Twenty four monkeys have been found dead near a main road in India, with their bodies discovered on some open grassland. The cause of death is unclear, which has prompted an investigation from authorities in the country.

The bodies of the monkeys were found close to a highway several miles from the city of Tiruchirappalli in the state of Tamil Nadu.

An image posted to Twitter by Jayakumar Madala, a reporter with the New Indian Express, appeared to show the bodies of the monkeys found at the side of the road.

The Hindu newspaper reported that the Forest Department in Tamil Nadu state had launched an investigation into what happened. Eighteen of of the 24 monkeys were male, they said, and six were female.

An official from the state government department told the newspaper that the cause of death would be examined in their investigation. They described their deaths as "unnatural." The team also hopes to ascertain where the monkeys were killed.

While the death of the animals remains a mystery, officials said they were not ruling out the possibility that the animals were killed elsewhere and transported to the place where their bodies were found.

Monkeys are considered sacred for many people in India. The animals are closely linked to the Hindu deity Hanuman.

A forest ranger working on the case told the Times of India that the monkeys may have been confined to cages prior to their deaths, adding that a post-mortem investigation would likely shed light on what happened.

"The perpetrators might have confined the animals to a small cage leaving them dead. However, the actual reason of death will only be known after getting the post-mortem report," Forest Official Gopinath said.

After officials in the area found the bodies of the monkeys, they conducted post-mortem examinations. The animals were subsequently buried at the Nedungūr forest reserve nearby.

Deaths of monkeys in India can be treated with heightened solemnity than in other countries in the world amid their sacred status among Hindus.

Earlier this month, the death of a langur monkey known to frequent the village of Dalupura in Madhya Pradesh resulted in a mass funeral attracting around 1,500 attendees.

The body of the monkey was seemingly carried on a pyre surrounded by attendees who later gathered for food under a brightly coloured shelter.

The funeral caused a stir in the central Indian state, with two people arrested for allegedly breaching COVID-19 protocols that forbade larger public gatherings.

There are an estimated 15 species of monkey in India including various types of macaques and langur monkeys.

Monkeys at the roadside in India
Monkey seen at the side of the road in India. The animals are considered sacred by many people in India. SAJJAD HUSSAIN / Contributor/Getty Images