Postcard from... Kenya


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The Independent Online

Farmers in central Kenya are reporting large groups of monkeys aggressively targeting women amid a dry spell that has contributed to a shortage of food and water.

In a disturbing shift in tactics, vervet monkeys, sometimes in packs of up to 50 primates, have descended on lone female crofters, cackling and swaggering as they point to their genitals, and have even ripped the clothes off at least one woman.

“A woman was assaulted by more than 10 male monkeys. They had opened their mouths roaring and were holding their private parts to intimidate her,” farmer Esther Nyakahote told Kenyan newspaper  The Star. Another woman, she said, was undressed when she tried to chase the primates off her farm.

It is still relatively rare for vervet monkeys to attack humans, but an unusually dry period has caused crops to fail and rivers to dry up in parts of the country, and the primates have encroached on to farmsteads from neighbouring nature reserves searching for food and water, bringing them into conflict with smallholders.

Droughts have pitted desperate primates against Kenyans in the past: some  15 years ago, a two-hour battle for control of a water well left 10 villagers injured and eight monkeys dead.