Sunday, February 27, 2005

City chooses dogs to fight monkey menace

Plagued by monkeys creating 20 million yen in crop damage yearly, Omachi Municipal Government has turned to dogs for aid, setting aside money to train canines to combat marauding macaques, Omachi officials said.

Omachi's 2005 fiscal year budget will include an allocation of 630,000 yen to be used to train four dogs that will be put to work stopping monkeys from stealing crops.

Japanese legend puts dogs and monkeys as traditional rivals in much the same way the West regards canines and felines as permanent enemies.

"This has gotta be the first time a municipality has come up with the idea of using dogs to fight monkeys," an Omachi spokesman said.

Under Omachi's "Monkey Dog" project, the four dogs will undergo about three months instruction at the Nagano Prefectural Police Dog Training Center. They will be taught to chase off monkeys on sight, strictly avoid harming humans and return to their handlers after driving away the simians.

"We've got to make sure the dogs are taught how to repel fierce attacks from the monkeys without hurting them," the spokesman said.

If the first four dogs put on monkey watch prove to be a success, more funds will be allocated to train even more canines.

Japanese macaques are blamed for causing over 20 million yen in damage yearly in Omachi. It has tried a number of other unusual steps to counter the simians, including setting up electric fences and shooting at them with firecrackers, but none of the measures has proved effective.

Omachi Mayor Yoshimasa Koshihara hopes the dogs will provide the city with an ultimate solution.

"Legend has it that dogs and monkeys are enemies," he said. "Let's hope it works."

Story here.

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