Since cities and towns all over the world went into lockdown due to the coronavirus pandemic, there have been reports of animals taking the opportunity to visit, and even establish themselves, in the empty streets, parks, and canals. This is no exception in Delhi, India, where recently a gang of monkeys escaped with COVID-19 samples after attacking a lab.
Monkeys Escape with COVID-19 Samples from Delhi Lab
In recent years, macaques monkeys have become a growing problem in cities around India. Since the nation-wide lockdowns have been keeping most people indoors, the monkeys have become even bolder, all but taking over the relatively empty streets of Delhi.
According to local reports, a gang of monkeys broke into the Meerut Medical College, attacked the laboratory assistant, and took off with three patients’ coronavirus testing kits. Each kit contained blood samples.
The monkeys were all found and the kits recovered, however not before one of the monkeys sufficiently destroyed the kit. That unfortunate patient would have to have all of their samples taken again. The other two kits were undamaged.
“They were still intact and we don’t think there is any risk of contamination or spread.” said college superintendent Dheeraj Raj of the undamaged kits. (1)
Since the lockdowns began, photos have been taken showing hoards of monkeys congregating in places that are usually full of people. Having adapted to living closely with humans, the lockdowns have actually been challenging for some primates who have learned to rely on humans for food.
Despite this, biologists and other scientists have been discouraging people from feeding the monkeys for fear of passing on the virus. Currently there is not enough information to know whether or not COVID-19 will adapt to a primate host. If that were to occur, it could decimate the monkey population as well as have a devastating impact on other animals for whom the monkeys are prey.
None of this, of course, has stopped the monkeys from continuing to cause chaos in the cities, no matter how many humans are out and about. There have been reports of monkeys stealing cell phones, food right out of people’s hands, and even breaking into government buildings and tearing apart important documents.
Though the solution to the monkey problem in cities across India is currently not clear, it will certainly be interesting to see how it plays out.
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