Planet of the Apes: After monkeys run away with lab samples in Meerut, officials claim they're not COVID-19 tests


In 2012, National Geographic produced a documentary series called 'Monkey Thieves', also known as Rebel Monkeys to examine the habits and social interactions of rhesus macaques in India. The purpose was to understand why the species has been touted as ‘robbers’ who steal anything and everything that they desire. The items go beyond food and were therefore even considered as a threat on US president Donald Trump’s maiden visit to India.

In a bizarre incident, reported by Times Now, a troop of monkeys in the premises of Meerut Medical College, Uttar Pradesh, attacked a lab technician who was carrying COVID-19 blood test samples of suspected COVID-19 patients. The apes snatched the specimens and ran away. Later, one of the monkeys was seen chewing the kits while sitting on a tree.

Seems like ‘Planet of the Apes’ in reality.

As the news broke on Twitter, many were worried that the samples can infect monkeys and will further be transferred to humans. One user wrote, “The biggest threat is if the samples are positive it will infect not only the monkeys who ran away with the samples but through them lot more animals and even humans will get infected.”

Some pointed out that the monkeys were a part of Lord Rama’s ‘Vanar Sena’ which helped him after Sita was abducted by Ravana. They also added how Lord Hanuman discovered the Sanjeevani Booti – a herb which is said to cure anyone of the verge of death, these monkeys will also help discover the cure for COVID-19.

Meanwhile, SK Garg, Principal, Meerut Medical College told ANI,"Samples taken away by monekys do not include COVID-19 swab test samples."

Thousands of animals, including monkeys are turning aggressive and violent due to lack of food amid the coronavirus lockdown. It can be assumed that the attack was in search of food as locals who attended these monkeys are indoors and the primates have been loitering across cities to fulfil their hunger.

According to Ram Lal Mishra, a resident of Uttar Pradesh, there are about 7,000 to 8,000 monkeys in Ayodhya itself.

"Since thousands of tourists, in normal times, come to Ayodhya and they feed monkeys with bananas, bread, puris and other eatables. The monkeys in Ayodhya were never as aggressive as the ones in Vrindavan but they made sure that they get their food by walking off with bags and sunglasses which they return only if they are given food.

"However, after the lockdown, the tourist influx has stopped. Even the local people are not moving out because all temples are shut. Monkeys are getting aggressive because they have been hungry," he explained.

The local people have also stopped offering food to the simians because they are also feeling the pinch of the lockdown.

"I used to keep 'chana' (gram) and 'roti' on my terrace for the monkeys but now with the uncertainty over the lockdown, I am keeping all the food grains for my family. Besides, my son owns a stationary shop which has been shut since March 22 so the income has also stopped. In such a situation, most people are unable to feed the monkeys," said Rama Gupta, a senior citizen who stays with her two sons and their families.

The local administration claims that it is providing bread and grams for monkey but the local people say that the exercise is 'inadequate'.