The Apsara Authority has been slammed with harsh criticism by the public on social media of criminal cruelty after its officials captured ferocious monkeys at the Bayon temple, a claim which has been denied yesterday by the Authority.
On Tuesday, officials from the Apsara Authority went to Angkor Thom complex to capture some monkeys, which they said had been attacking tourists who visit the historical site. Videos that went viral on Facebook and other social media showed officials shoot the animals with tranquiliser guns before transporting the monkeys out of the temple area in cages.
As the officials were doing their job, a group of people were protesting against the action. A man was even seen crying in one of the videos as he was shouting that the officials were killing the monkeys.
“They (monkey) have been living here for so long!” another protester was shouting at the officials, who were trying to stop him filming the operation. “How could you be cold-hearted and kill them like that?”
Since Tuesday, social media users have been posting criticisms of the Apsara Authority, accusing them of animal cruelty. Most of the posts came with pictures of the monkeys with bloody wounds or pathetically hugging their offspring.
“The authorities used wrong techniques and caused so many monkeys to die. They are living creatures too!” wrote a Cambodian Facebook user.
“Which one is crueller? Monkeys or the people who capture them,” wrote another.
However, Long Kosal, Apsara Authority spokesman and the one who led the operation on Tuesday, denied the accusation of animal cruelty yesterday and claimed that no monkeys died or were seriously injured in the operation.
“Those who have been criticising us do not know about the reality of our actions,” he said.
Kosal explained that the Apsara Authority has received reports about the monkeys’ attacking tourists at Angkor Archaeological Park.
“Some tourists were bitten by the monkeys,” he said. “Some others had their belongings such as bags or mobile phones snatched by these animals.”
Kosal added that only 16 monkeys were captured from the park and they are now quarantined at Phnom Tamao Zoological Park and Wildlife Rescue Centre before being released into the forest outside Angkor to prevent them from infecting other monkeys or animals in the wild.
“Those 16 monkeys are among the most ferocious and have been the leaders of the other monkeys attacking people,” he said.
He continued that it was the protesters, whom he claimed are Youtubers, who spread rumours against the Apsara Authority.
“Those Youtubers have been filming the monkeys in the park and making money from the videos,” Kosal said. “The image of injured monkeys which they have posted and shared are in fact old pictures which are not related to the operation.”
Allan Michaud, a Cambodian-based wildlife conservationist and photographer, said he trusted the Apsara Authority removal, adding that the monkeys’ attacks on tourists have been a real problem.
“As long as it was done in a right manner, there should not have been a big problem,” he said.
However, he commented the attacks have not been caused by the primates’ ferocious nature but are instead the “humans’ fault”.
“It has been us who have been feeding those monkeys, which leads to them learning to steal and attack people,” he said. “It is indeed our fault.”