Hairy Little Devils

Monkeys are exotic creatures to the average North American. We share our outdoors with birds, squirrels, and lizards, but our exposure to monkeys is mostly limited to television and zoos. This all changed for me when my travels reached Africa and Asia. Monkeys became a fairly common feature of forests and even urban streets. My travel buddies enjoyed our frequent monkey spottings, but my anxiety increased with each encounter. Rather than whipping out my camera and getting as close as possible, I found myself cringing in fear and instinctively gripping anything I might use as a shield or weapon. “What’s wrong? Don’t you like monkeys? Look at how cute they are!” My friends were perplexed and probably embarrassed by my public discomfort. 

Yes, apes are our closest relatives.  I respect their intelligence and am saddened when they are victims of mistreatment or cruelty.  That doesn’t change the fact that they have scared the crap out of me since I was five.  I once found them just as cute as the rest of you do.  Then one day after Kindergarten, my mother took me to a pet store where a tiny monkey in an even tinier diaper sat in a cage.  I walked towards it quietly, hoping for some cute monkey chirps or even a trick or two.  Instead it turned, bared two rows of pointed teeth and released an impossibly loud hiss.  It was a hiss of deep, dark hatred.  That monkey wanted nothing more than to pry open the bars of its cage and rip my eyes from my five year-old skull with its tiny opposable thumbs.  I was led from the store in tears.  Still, I’m grateful for that moment of terror because it taught me the truth about city- or cage-dwelling monkeys. 

I apologize in advance to monkey owners, fans, or others who may be offended by this post.  I do not write as a personal attack, rather as a way to deal with my own fears and beliefs.  Feel free to share your opinion by leaving a comment, or skip this altogether and wait for my next post, which will not be primate-related.  For the rest of you, listen and learn, my dear readers and/or future travel partners.  Listen and learn.

5 Reasons Monkeys Should Frighten You 

1.  Monkeys are strong, emotionally volatile, and can cause can cause us serious bodily harm.  

When I see a monkey, especially one that is within a ten foot range, a little red danger sign starts flashing deep within my primal brain.  Monkeys are wild animals; highly intelligent, powerful, and dexterous wild animals.  If they feel threatened, they will do whatever it takes to protect themselves without the human fears of arrest or detention.  

I’m not an expert on actions that make monkeys feel threatened, but I imagine there are many that we would never consider.  My fear of monkeys stems from a strong conviction that all monkeys see me as a potential threat, and are thus seconds away from pouncing on my chest and tearing off my face. “She was right,” my travel buddies would say as the air filled with my muffled screams and the monkey’s triumphant screeches. “We should have been more afraid and less adoring of these creatures.”

I bet you are thinking I’m exaggerating or overreacting, but this has actually happened at least once. In 2009, an American woman lost her face, hands, vision, and nearly her life after a vicious attack by her friend’s pet chimpanzee. I don’t mean to joke about or make light of this tragedy, instead I mention it to add weight to my reasons monkeys are not to be trusted. You can read the story here, and youtube it if you want to see the Oprah interview, but I want to give a very clear disclaimer that the damage was severe, and the images are very disturbing..

http://articles.cnn.com/2009-02-17/us/chimpanzee.attack_1_charla-nash-chimp-attack-sandra-herold?_s=PM:US

 In fact, don’t search “monkey attack” in google images either. That experience was nearly enough for me to create a 6th reason to fear monkeys.  

Okay, I admit the chances of losing my face to a monkey are low, but monkey attacks are real, and they are serious! In 2007, the late Deputy Mayor died in his New Delhi home after a monkey attack on his own terrace.  

http://delhigreens.com/2007/11/06/the-monkey-menace-turns-fatal/

This poor man went onto his terrace, perhaps for a coffee and fresh air, and never came back because of the evil little critters silly tourists actually like to feed!  If holding a political office and having a ridiculously gorgeous actor for a son can’t protect you from a swarm of vicious monkeys, what will?

(If his dad can be attacked by monkeys, no one is safe!)

2. Angry monkeys throw feces. 

 Do I really need to explain why this is a problem?  Most of you probably still think monkeys are cute and funny, so clearly I do. Here goes.  We’ve all gotten upset and used cruel and possibly vulgar language at least once in our lives.  Admit it, you’ve also thrown, punched, broken or smashed something to smithereens out of sheer temper.  However, it is well known that monkeys have their own unique method of combining the sweet release of throwing an object with the gratification of degrading someone who has offended them.  

(Actual warning sign at a South African Nature Preserve)

I have to admit that a small part of me gives monkeys props for having the guts to actually DO the foulest, most contemptuous act I can think of.  Nonetheless, I don’t care to be within range of creature that is known for this sort of behavior.  I never, ever want to be involved in a monkey-feces incident, and avoiding monkeys in general should be a good guarantee I will never face this situation.

(Keep your distance.  They look a little angry!)

3.  Monkeys and humans do not share the same etiquette regarding activities that are appropriate in public, and those that should be strictly private.

Reason number two above eluded to this fact, but the problem is that primates’ tendency towards disturbing behavior is not limited to times of anger.  In fact, when monkeys aren’t eating or sleeping, they are sure to be shamelessly engaging in behaviors that most people would never even dream of, or at least admit to doing, even in an empty house behind closed doors.  The mother-child lice grooming is sort of sweet in its own way I guess, although the resulting eating of the lice quickly ruins that effect.  

(We’ve only just begun…)

Everyone laughs uncomfortably when monkeys play with themselves, as long as it doesn’t go on for too long.  It’s the depth and intensity of monkeys’ exploration, examination, and manipulation of their body parts, functions and fluids that sets my gag reflex on maximum.  Want to see something disgusting?  Visit a zoo and sit outside a monkey enclosure for a while.  Twenty minutes should be more than enough time.  

The smarter the species, the more horrendous the show will be.  Chimpanzees are like a winning lotto ticket when it comes to unspeakable acts, and they will etch images of horror into your mind that even a sandblaster couldn’t clear.  I won’t share my own traumatic zoo experience here, but feel free to leave a comment with your email should you wish to spend a few days fasting, or perhaps curled in a corner in the fetal position.

4.  The media and toy manufacturers frequently remind us of monkeys’ intrinsic creepiness.

Monkeys are like clowns.  While many think they are amusing or entertaining. enlightened others like myself see the evil inside.  Thankfully, we have Hollywood to remind us of the truth.

Hello?  I’m going to have nightmares after just reading the intro.  How many movies like this exist about puppies or kittens?  That’s because they aren’t inherently evil!  Look at that toy.  Do you think someone made it look scary just for the movie?  Do you think it’s the only monkey toy out there that looks like this?  No.  You can show me adorable 80s sock monkeys until the cows come home, but the rest of the world bombards me with far too many scary images to change my mind about them.

5.  Monkeys are the source of the plague, rage, and/or zombie apocalypse that will ultimately destroy our civilization.

Most films containing red-eyed, flailing, flesh eating creatures begin with a minor mishap between an unfortunate, unsuspecting, and underpaid scientist and an infected primate.  This fact alone should be enough to make us wary of monkeys lurking beyond the boundaries of a jungle or rainforest.  Did you nonbelievers learn nothing from Dustin Hoffman chasing that monkey in his clean suit? 

Even so, you don’t have to be a huge fan of zombie films or Robin Cook thrillers to notice the link between our closest species and terrifying epidemics.  If a plague involves bleeding from every orifice or your skin falling from your bones, you can catch it from a monkey.  Forget global warming, climate change, and the end of the Mayan Calendar.  Every year, some new health scare makes headlines, and the virus that will wipe us out like a summer disaster flick is the culmination of the primates’ plot to get us.  Humans can hunt them, cage them, experiment on them, and dress them in humiliating outfits, but our day of reckoning will inevitably come, and it will come from their hairy little hands.

(This guy definitely had it coming.)

Monkeys are at the lower end of the food chain now, but they will happily pick lice, examine their privates, and angrily throw feces long after our future zombie selves have eaten the appendages of Earth’s last surviving human.

 These 5 arguments aside, even after my critique of monkey behavior and their plan to destroy life as we know it, I still can’t really blame that monkey for hissing at me when I was a child.  It was an intelligent creature spending its days caged in a pet shop. The brightest future it faced was adoption by some childless woman who would dress it in doll clothes, rock it like a baby, and force it to watch re-runs of bad 70s sitcoms. 

I’ll add some balance to my diatribe of fear and disgust with some links showing how monkeys are incredible, at a distance. The two podcasts are long, but fascinating and well worth your time.

http://www.npr.org/2006/07/08/5503685/a-voluble-visit-with-two-talking-apes

http://www.radiolab.org/2010/feb/19/kanzi/

http://www.radiolab.org/2010/feb/19/lucy/

Maybe I should consider monkeys as I do other wild animals; with a healthy dose of respect, rather than fear and mistrust.  After all, elephants could trample me in a second, but I still love them.  Then again, maybe I should hold on to my convictions, and worriedly await the day when my work abroad brings me to live in a place where monkeys roam free. 

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5 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Saddam
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 14:06:54

    Yes i agree with that i had an extremely bad experience with monkeys when i went to murree where a team of 14 or more rhesus macaques attacked me for my snacks and i barely escaped a bite.

    Reply

  2. The Overthinking Expat
    Apr 22, 2012 @ 21:36:36

    Wow Saddam, 14 monkeys!!!! Sounds like a very scary experience. Glad you weren’t bitten. Thanks for taking the time to comment and add further proof that monkeys can be dangerous 🙂

    Reply

  3. Adam Faber
    Apr 23, 2012 @ 06:14:29

    Okay, we are officially in a fight. Shame on you. Monkeys are god’s little entertainers!

    Reply

    • The Overthinking Expat
      Apr 23, 2012 @ 07:43:51

      Thanks Adam, I needed that laugh! How about instead of fighting, we just agree to disagree. Since you like them so much, perhaps you can be my official human shield against God’s Little Entertainers next time they want to entertain my skull, brain, or facial tissue 😉

      Reply

  4. preventing water damage
    Jan 30, 2013 @ 19:53:27

    Hello, I read your blog on a regular basis. Your humoristic style is awesome, keep up the good work!

    Reply

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