December 20, 2021
One of my news feeds today reported the story of two monkeys who had been captured by authorities in India after they killed over 200 dogs in “revenge” attacks after the death of a baby monkey. Officials with the forest department from the Beed district of Maharashtra state said the monkeys were trapped on Sunday and transported to a forest near Nagpur where they were released in their natural habitat. A spokesperson from Lavool village said the attacks had been happening for three months, with the two monkeys taking puppies and placing them on roofs or other high places. The puppies had either died from lack of food or water or had fallen from the height.
When I check online, I found some monkey species are known to practice revenge, either directly or indirectly. In 2017, researchers published a study that looked at the social interactions of macaques. They analyzed 500 hours of video, including 15,000 episodes of aggression, and found monkeys tracked their associates’ behavior and would carry out revenge. Whether the monkeys in Beed district were killing dogs for revenge is unclear. Range Forest Officer Amol Munde said he was aware of three to four cases of puppies dying after being taken by two monkeys in Lavool. He said he was not aware of dogs killing a baby monkey in the village and does not believe the deaths were retaliatory in nature. “They take care of puppies. They used to keep puppies on roofs or tall trees. The puppies couldn’t survive at such places as they couldn’t get food or water. If a puppy escaped from the two monkeys it used to die after falling from a height.”
When I researched the story online, it became more bizarre. I found a different version of the story which spoke of a troop of monkeys who threw over 250 dogs off rooftops for revenge. Villagers who tried to save the puppies had been attacked and injured. The authorities had finally been called because most of the dogs (puppies and adults?) were gone and the monkeys had begun to attack small children on their way to school. Other people had been injured while fleeing from the marauding troop. All the stories were filled with facts and quotes from local villagers and government officials and were all said to be reported by the local media. I found this was a viral story spreading across the internet. As the story continued to grow, I realized I needed to do a fact check.
Thoughts: The facts were there is no confirmation that the dogs attacked or killed any infant monkey, and the evidence is based on hearsay. Local officials confirmed two monkeys have been taking pups to the rooftops of a building in the area, but no one can confirm they threw the puppies from the height. It is believed the monkeys left the pups on the rooftop and they might have died of hunger or fallen on their own. The locals said they are terrorized by the monkeys, so they do not go on the rooftops. The two monkeys (not troop) who were involved have been relocated to another part of the forest. Many of the facts that cross my path daily need to be checked for accuracy. Just because a story is online, or even in print, does not mean it is true. Government officials and influencers constantly spread lies and innuendos hoping they will be picked up and go viral. If you get enough likes, it must be true. Do the work. Follow the science. Change is coming and it starts with you.