At the end of 2021, bizarre reports of a strange war emerged from India: monkeys versus dogs. Villagers in Maharastra state, 300 miles east of Mumbai, claimed that revenge mad langur monkeys were slaughtering puppies by the hundreds. The attacks were so thorough that in Lawul village, every single puppy had been wiped out.[i]
According to the locals, the conflict started when a pack of stray dogs attacked two monkeys and their infant. The baby monkey was mauled to death in the attack. In revenge, monkeys began to systematically hunt down puppies and then carry them onto roofs or up trees before hurling them to their deaths. The number of dogs killed is estimated by villagers to be more than 250.
The strange story of the monkeys’ vendetta against the canine population was widely reported and the monkey-dog gang war led to the predictable proliferation of internet memes.
After virtually all the area’s dogs had been dealt with, the revenge mad monkeys apparently turned their attention to local children and started harassing them. Something had to be done and the main culprits responsible for the doggy massacre were finally captured.[ii]
The Forest Department investigated the ‘war’ and it seems that the truth of the matter may be more complex than the villagers and the press have reported.
For one thing, the figure of 250 dogs killed seems to be unfounded. According to Sachin Kand, a local Forest Officer, the actual number is closer to 50, though some sources provide a much lower number.[iii]
Furthermore, it’s also possible that the motives for the monkeys’ behaviour may have been grief rather than revenge. Kand suggests that the distraught monkeys who had lost their infant to the pack of dogs were actually trying to replace their baby with a puppy, which they would carry around the villages with them, including onto roofs and treetops. The unfortunate dogs would then either starve on the roof or, not being built to navigate trees, fall to their death.
The Forest Department report concluded that the ‘clashes between dogs and monkeys in Lawul village cannot be termed as an act of revenge.’[iv] Indeed, revenge is a very human emotion.
It seems we looked at these horrible events and completely misunderstood them. We projected our own feelings onto what was happening and created a distorted narrative that reflected our own thoughts and prejudices based on sensationalist and inaccurate reporting.
It’s never a good idea to rush to judgement without being aware of our own biases, prejudices, lack of reliable information and the tendency of media sources to amplify and distort sensational events.
At times of war, information is a weapon and a healthy scepticism is the only defence.