Japanese monkeys steal babies, claw flesh, Yamaguchi city officials say

TOKYO– Residents of a town in southwestern Japan have been attacked by monkeys trying to snatch babies, bite and claw flesh and sneak into kindergartens.

The attacks – on 58 people since July 8 – are getting worse. Yamaguchi City Hall has hired a special unit to hunt animals with tranquilizer guns.

The monkeys aren’t interested in food, so the traps didn’t work. They mainly targeted children and the elderly.

“They’re so smart, and they tend to sneak up and attack from behind, often grabbing your legs,” city official Masato Saito said Wednesday.

When confronted with a monkey, the instructions are as follows: do not look it in the eye, get as big as possible, for example by spreading your coat, then step back as quietly as possible without making sudden movements, according to Saito.

A woman was attacked by a monkey while she was hanging laundry on her veranda. Another victim showed bandaged toes. They were surprised and frightened by the size and fatness of the monkeys.

The monkeys terrorizing the community are Japanese macaques, the kind often depicted peacefully bathing in hot springs.

A male monkey, 49 centimeters (1.6 feet) tall and weighing 7 kilograms (15 pounds), was caught by the team with the tranquilizer gun on Tuesday. He was judged by various evidence to be one of the attacking apes and put to death.

But other attacks were reported after the capture.

No one has been seriously injured so far. But all were told to seek treatment at the hospital. Ambulances were called in some cases.

Although Japan is industrialized and urban, much of the archipelago’s land is made up of mountains and forests. Rare attacks on people by a bear, wild boar or other wildlife have occurred, but usually not by monkeys.

No one seems to know why the attacks took place, and where exactly the troop of monkeys came from remains unclear.

“I’ve never seen anything like this in my entire life,” Saito said.

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