It was a pleasant morning on Sunday, October 18th in Tainan County, Taiwan, a perfect morning for a trip into the mountains. I read about Monkey Mountain in the Fili’s World blog, and I just had to check this place out. I have always had a love for animals, and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to see some of Taiwan’s last macaque monkeys living in their natural environment. A hundred years ago, macaques and many other animal species flourished in Taiwan. But now, the macaques live in small pockets of habitat. They have been victim to deforestation, shrinking habitat, and pollution.
Before visiting the monkey site, I read the blog, and learned about the dangers of bringing food. The monkeys are very aggressive, and they do have sharp fangs. One has to be cautious, as I discovered for myself. It took a pleasant 45 car ride from Sigang to Wushan, which is in Eastern Tainan County. As we drove to the base of the mountain, we found a sign and statue of a monkey indicating which small mountain road to take. The road snaked up to about fifteen hundred feet to the Reserve. We didn’t expect to see too many monkeys, and didn’t know how we were going to know when we were in the right area. But once we arrived, it was obvious.
High upon a stone wall, we saw macaque monkeys sitting and lounging. They were looking into the windows of a small restaurant. The small group was waiting for a charitable donation of food from the restaurant’s patrons. As they waited, some were resting, and grooming the fur of their comrades. Others were restless, chasing and screaming at each other up and down the wall, and onto the tin roof of the building.
Knowing that we arrived at the right place, we quickly pulled into a large parking lot. We sat in the mini-van and ate our lunch, staring out the window in disbelief. There were monkeys everywhere/ They were on the road, in the parking lot, in the trees, on top of cars, and scrambling on top of buildings. Some approached us cautiously, while others played, or displayed their dominance over the others. There were many monkey mothers with small babies in their arms. Everyone wanted to stay in the cars to assess if the monkeys were dangerous or not. I ate my food quickly and stepped out into the parking lot to take photos.
The first thing I noticed was that some of the monkeys were injured. They were missing an arm, a hand or a foot. One large male was missing a leg and an arm. I imagined they were injured by traffic, just like many of the dogs and cats I have seen in Taiwan. A car nearby opened its doors and a man emerged to feed monkeys a few bananas. I wondered why the blog article warned readers not to feed the monkeys. They seemed harmless enough.
My oldest son came out of the car, and I showed him how harmless the monkeys were. They allowed us to come very close to them, almost close enough to touch. A store owner nearby sold bananas and plastic bags full of unshelled peanuts. Confident that the warnings were exaggerated, I bought a bag of peanuts and handed them to my son. The monkeys converged so quickly upon him, Johan ran scared and dropped the bag of peanuts. The monkeys rioted around the bag, tearing it apart and scattering peanuts everywhere, to the delight of the hungry crowd. I asked my son if he wanted another bag, and he refused. I bought another bag of peanuts for NT $50 (US $1.67) to show my son, how to properly feed the monkeys. They converged upon me, and I help the bag high over my head. A large male monkey in front of me jumped so high, he easily snatched the plastic bag from me and ran up to the top of a tall tree to enjoy the peanuts by himself. A few minutes later, a large hole was torn in the bag and it rained peanuts all over the ground for the other monkeys. Although our intention was foiled, the investment was worthwhile, as I got close enough to monkeys to get some great shots.
Everyone else got out of the car, and my toddler was very excited seeing these little simians running around him. He had no signs of food, so he was pretty safe. I noticed a vacation villa at the edge of the parking lot that was for sale. It had an incredible view. I briefly fantasized about living in such a place, but wondered what the downfalls might be like living with the merciless macaques. We walked up a hill to the restaurant that was the focus of the monkeys’ attention. We found that people went there to eat, watch and feed the monkeys. They sold peanuts, but the vendors did not give you plastic bags. Instead, the peanuts were placed in large plastic bowls, and these were not something the monkeys could steal, so they did not attack people. Johan bought a bowl of peanuts and enjoyed tossing them one by one to awaiting monkeys. We followed a trail up the mountain into the jungle and enjoyed the brisk walk and scenic views. We left soon after for our next destination, but not before the children begged for us to return again to Monkey Mountain. Johan said it was more fun than… Disney World!