Officials in the southwestern Japanese city of Yamaguchi have formed a special unit, armed with tranquilizer guns to hunt down monkeys, after at least 42 reported attacks on people by the animal since July 8.
The monkeys - Japanese macaques - are common in large parts of the country, and they are a pest in some areas, eating crops and even entering homes.
But city officials say the string of attacks in Yamaguchi have been unusual, with both adults and children suffering injuries, including scratches and bites.
Yamaguchi officials say they resorted to the special unit after snares and traps failed to capture any monkeys.
They say the unit tracked down and tranquilized one monkey near a local high school late Tuesday. The monkey matched prior descriptions and photos taken of a known attacker and it was put down. But the attacks have continued, squelching a theory that the attacks were the act of a single monkey.
The injuries have so far been mild, but authorities say there are indications the monkeys are getting bolder. One official said, “Initially only children and women were attacked. Recently elderly people and adult men have been targeted, too.”
They say the monkeys have in some cases entered homes by sliding open screen doors or entering through windows.
Kobe University wildlife expert Mieko Kiyono told U.S. cable news channel CNN that while a string of attacks such as those seen in Yamaguchi are rare, this kind of human-monkey conflict has become increasingly common over the years.
She said research indicates conservation efforts have led to a resurgence in macaque populations, while their natural habitats have declined. Kiyono said the more humans and monkeys interact, the more the monkeys lose their natural fear, and attacks like these are likely to become more common.
Some information for this report was provided by The Associated Press and Agence France-Presse.