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Fun Time: Monkeys Need to be Gainfully Employed

Compiled/ partly written by Melvin Durai Email Compiled/ partly written by Melvin Durai
March 2024
Fun Time: Monkeys Need to be Gainfully Employed

If you ask the experts why the crime rate is high among young people in some countries, they will tell you that it’s because there aren’t enough jobs. If these youths were working, they wouldn’t have the time or motivation to commit crimes. I’ve been wondering if the same theory applies to monkeys. If we gave them jobs, would they stop stealing cellphones and purses from tourists?

Depending on where you live, you may not realize how much crime is committed by monkeys in countries such as India, Thailand, and Indonesia. Here is a fact that might surprise you: According to scientists, the average monkey is 10,000 times more likely to steal an object from a tourist than the average cow. Yes, in many countries around the world, monkeys are the leading criminals among all animals that do not drive getaway cars. But the only monkeys we ever lock up are the innocent ones. Just go to any zoo and you’ll see dozens of innocent faces and not a lawyer in sight.

Meanwhile, the monkeys running loose are committing all kinds of crimes. In some Asian cities, they travel around in gangs, raiding homes and terrorizing people. Monkeys have also learned to grab valuables and demand a ransom for their return. They haven’t yet figured out how to write ransom notes, but give them time. They’re still evolving.

A monkey recently stole a man’s iPhone at a Hindu temple in Vrindavan, Uttar Pradesh, India. An Instagram video shows the monkey holding the phone at the top of a building while passers-by try to help the man retrieve his phone. Only when someone tosses a Frooti mango drink at the monkey does the animal drop the iPhone. As you can probably guess, this monkey was a novice. A more experienced monkey would have demanded a six-pack of Frooti. The monkey that stole a woman’s phone in Bali last year was a veteran crook. A video shared on X shows the monkey taking a fruit from the woman but not returning the phone until a second fruit is offered.

A Canadian study conducted several years ago found that monkeys at Uluwatu temple in Bali target the most valuable items that tourists carry, such as mobile phones, wallets. and prescription glasses. After filming interactions between monkeys and tourists for more than 270 days, researchers determined that the monkeys expected bigger rewards for items of higher value. In one case, it took 17 minutes of negotiation for a tourist to get an item back. Imagine that: a monkey negotiating for 17 minutes. I wish I could have hired that monkey when I was buying my car. The salesman wouldn’t have needed to make a monkey out of me.

If monkeys can learn to commit crimes, they can certainly learn to be productive members of society. I would love to hire one of these monkeys, but I’m not sure how to go about it. Here are just some of the questions I have:

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Compiled and partly written by Indian humorist MELVIN DURAI, author of the novel Bala Takes the Plunge.

[Comments? Contributions? We would love to hear from you about Chai Time. If you have contributions, please email us at melvin@melvindurai.com. We welcome jokes, quotes, online clips, and more.]

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