Villagers in India Don Bear Suits to Try to Scare Off Thousands of Monkeys

Residents of the Sikandarpur village in the Indian state of Uttar Pradesh are taking unusual steps to get rid of annoying monkeys, taking turns wearing bear costumes to frighten the primates.

According to the Hindustan Times, Sikandarpur has been plagued by monkeys for some time. The animals are notorious for causing all sorts of mayhem, from attacking children they see as easy prey to throwing bricks and stones at people from high perches.

Rhesus macaques in India
A pair of rhesus macaques in India. f9photos / Getty Images

The village has reported an estimated population of 5,400 humans and 2,000 monkeys. The primates are attracted to human habitation because it provides easy access to food and a lack of predators. A group of Sikandarpur citizens decided to use subterfuge to address that second reason.

Residents pooled money to buy a trio of bear costumes from a makeup artist for under $24 each. Two people take shifts wearing the costumes and walking from place to place, posing as a large predator that scares the monkeys.

Facing monkey menace, villagers get ‘under the skin’ rather than ‘bear’ it

— TOI Bareilly (@TOIBareilly) January 28, 2020

"We have now started taking turns in wearing the bear costume and roaming around the village. It was a relative who had told me about the idea, and it is actually working," village head Ram Lalit Verma told reporters.

The gambit seems to be successful, as reports of monkey attacks are down since Sikandarpur residents began their costumed duties.

M.N. Singh, the sub-divisional forest officer for the city of Shahjahanpur, is planning a visit to the village to assess the efficacy of the bear disguises. He blames a lack of funding for his agency's inability to keep monkeys away from human habitats.

Uttar Pradesh has been struggling with its growing monkey population for some time. Deforestation is reducing the animals' natural habitat, causing them to migrate in larger numbers toward urban and rural areas.

In June 2018, India Today reported on a spate of monkey attacks in Vrindavan, a town that draws religious pilgrims to its immense Hindu temple. Monks who had been living there fled the area, and residents appealed for money to install iron bars on windows to keep the animals out.

Video of a gang of macaques attacking an incense seller in the street brought national attention to the issue.

In addition, many of the monkeys carry rabies, making their attacks even more dangerous.

The animals are protected by the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972, which makes killing them a crime punishable by up to seven years in prison. In the past, the forest service instructed villagers to trap monkeys and release them deep into the woods, but the sheer number of the animals makes that ineffective.