The coronavirus outbreak has left Thailand’s hotels empty, its tour guides without work and its markets unusually quiet. The country’s wildlife may also now be noticing the lack of visitors.
A video filmed this week in Lopburi, north-east of Bangkok, showed large crowds of monkeys brawling in the streets, apparently fighting over a yoghurt pot. Residents in the city, which is famed for its monkey population, say the fall in tourist numbers means there are far fewer people offering food.
“It’s the summer, so usually we see a lot of tourists, but now because of the outbreak there’s so few that the markets are very quiet. Not enough tourists come to leave food for the monkeys at Prang Sam Yod [temple],” Sasaluk Rattanachai, who posted a video of the brawl online, told Khaosod English.
AdvertisementThe monkeys are known for marauding the streets and stealing food from residents and unsuspecting tourists. Scraps between the monkeys are not uncommon, but a brawl of this size is rare, prompting one Thai reporter to attempt a vox pop with the local monkeys.
Each troop has at least 500 members, according to Manad Vimuktipune of the Lopburi Monkey Foundation. They’ll steal anything, he said: “Colourful ornaments, caps, sunglasses.” There are fewer tourists in the city, he added, and there is not enough food being offered.
The coronavirus outbreak is a severe blow to Thailand’s tourism industry, which is crucial to the country’s already struggling economy. This week, the country’s tourism authority warned that the number of foreign visitors may fall to 30 million this year from last year’s 39.8 million, according to the Bangkok Post.
The government has been criticised for a lack of clarity over its guidance to potential visitors, including over the quarantine measures that are likely to be imposed on tourists from affected countries.
It was announced this week that passengers who have travelled from or transited through several destinations – mainland China, Hong Kong, Macau, Korea, Italy and Iran – in the 14 days prior to their arrival may be subject to quarantine. Travellers from these destinations must also provide a health certificate, issued within 48 hours of their departure, certifying that they are free of Covid-19