Serious monkey business in Saudi Arabia

Baboons cause health scare in the Arabian Peninsula.

Baboons are running amok in southwestern Saudi Arabia, where they have a penchant for invading human homes in a search for food. Panic has ensued as Saudis seek ways to deter the pesky primate thieves.

The southwestern mountainous areas of the Arabian Peninsula, such as al-Qura, al-Baha, al-Ta-ef and Abha regions, have seen a spate of baboon hordes invading villages and farms. Local and national government grows concern over human contact with the primates, who can deliver nasty bits and infection, and even kill young children. On African safaris, for example, tour guides regularly carry automatic weapons to defend themselves and tourists from baboon attacks.  In Saudi Arabia, the government has responded with awareness campaigns in the southern portion of the country, while residents seek their own methods of defense. Some residents have set traps that give off electric jolts to the ingenious apes.

Typically arriving before dawn, troops of 10 to 20 baboons first raid farmers's crops. Then they proceed to tear open trash bags and also break into houses to steal food. Recently, a pack of baboons unleashed a panic at a girls’ school during an early morning attack. The apes ripped open the girls' school-bags to feast on cookies. Parents are concerned about the transmission of disease by baboons. The Centers for Disease Control in the U.S. recently published a paper that studied the potential of disease transmission between baboons and humans. Among the infectious diseases that are candidates are measles and tuberculosis. See CDC.

Residents of the affected villages are at a loss as to preventive measures. Some are securing their trash receptacles with wire, while others have installed barbed wire at their homes to fend off the apes. Others are using traps that give electric jolts to the primate raiders.  It is theorized that the availability of easy pickings from trash heaps has attracted baboons who, a dozen years, were not found in cities. 
 
Farmers are also affected. In al-Baha province, one farmer recently loss half of his grape crop to monkey marauders. His scarecrows did nothing to deter the hungry primates. Residents complain that little help has come from the government to address the plague of monkeys. 


Spero News editor Martin Barillas is a former US diplomat, who also worked as a democracy advocate and election observer in Latin America. He is also a freelance translator.

Filed under science, saudi arabia, islam, monkeys, science, Middle East

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