Monkey Alert

Monkeys!

There are 2 main types of monkeys in this area, the Rhesus Macaque and the Gray Langur. You’ll be very fortunate to see the Langurs, as they live further up the mountain and only tend to only come down a few times a year. They are also quite timid and gentle, despite their large size.
The Rhesus monkeys are a very different story however. You are guaranteed to see them while you’re at Tushita, and while they ARE very cute and entertaining (and precious sentient beings…), they can also be aggressive (between themselves and against humans) and have caused a lot of damage to property here.
The numbers of rhesus monkeys have risen in the last decade and they are now considered to be a pest across much of Northern India. The main reason that numbers are growing, and that the monkeys are becoming more intrepid and aggressive is quite simple: it’s because of access to food, particularly as as urbanization has encroached on their original habitat.
Travellers unfamiliar with the problematic side of the monkeys often find them endearing (which they are!) and an automatic response is to get closer to them, and to offer them food. Both of these are mistakes.
Monkeys can be dangerous (sharp claws and teeth) and they can carry diseases (rabies, among others). Providing them with food disrupts their natural feeding patterns and also encourages them to consider people and specific places as good food sources. This means that they will choose to hang out in that place more than anywhere else nearby, and teaches them to see humans as food-providing-units to be utilized, whether you have food or not, or freely offer it or not. It is common for monkeys to break into rooms in search of food, trashing everything as they go, and even to steal food directly from your hand or plate.
It is uncommon for a monkey to attack humans, but it does happen here occasionally, whether the monkey felt vulnerable and intentionally wished to harm, or in the process of trying to obtain food.
Animal pests present a big dilemma for Buddhist centres – we have taken a vow to cherish all life and ask all our guests and visitors to do the same by not harming any living being. However, we have to be practical and also take care of our human friends! So, our main approach is in prevention, and we ask everyone to help us by abiding by the following…

Monkey guidelines and tips for your stay at Tushita:

  • NEVER intentionally feed the monkeys.
  • Keep doors and windows or screens closed and locked at all times. Monkeys love to get in and rip things apart looking for food (and sometimes just fun!).
  • Do not keep food in your room or in a bag you keep with you.
  • Be vigilant when eating outdoors. Even if you aren’t offering them anything, monkeys see any food as an open invitation. We try to have a member of staff patrol the outside eating areas at meal times and we have dogs to help chase the monkeys away – call on them for help if needed, but keep an eye out at all times anyway.

When you are near a monkey:

  • DO NOT make eye contact. Also, try not to smile or otherwise bare your teeth. Monkeys find these to be extremely threatening gestures.
  • If the monkey is calm, then you should also stay calm. You’ll see the locals walk past large groups of them with no concern whatsoever. The monkeys seem to sense your agitation and respond to that. Some people find it helpful to silently say the mantra “Om Mani Padme Hum” to themselves as they walk past monkeys. This helps the individual to stay calm, and to wish all happiness for the monkeys.
  • If the monkey is approaching you from a distance and is clearly looking for food, make noise – a loud coughing/calling noise seems to work, and throw stones in its general direction. The purpose isn’t to hurt the monkey, but to show that you are not vulnerable, and to deter it.
  • If the monkey is being aggressive near you, best is to wait until it passes by or if it is approaching you, to back off and try to get away from it.  Call on our dogs or others for help.

In the unlikely event that you are scratched or bitten by a monkey:

  • Wash the wound with warm water and a disinfectant soap immediately. You’ll find both in our dishwashing area. Wash it thoroughly for several minutes.
  • Let a member of staff know about the incident.
  • Treat the wound with a strong disinfectant, like iodine. We have some in our first aid kit in our reception office.
  • Depending on the extent of the scratch or bite, it is likely to be advisable to have rabies innoculations. These are easily available at local hospitals, but can be expensive and very inconvenient, as you have to have a series of injections at regular intervals over the following months.

We don’t mean to alarm you, please don’t let our primate pals deter you from enjoying your time here! Most students find the monkeys – and the mindfulness they impose upon you – an integral part of the Tushita experience. By following these guidelines, we’re sure you’ll have no problems.