News & Politics

Planet of the Apes? Monkeys Steal Coronavirus Samples After Attacking Lab Assistant

In this Thursday, May 31, 2018, file photo, a monkey drinks water from a tanker on a hot summer day in Jammu, India. Intense heat wave conditions continue to prevail in Jammu with maximum temperature recorded above 40 degrees Celsius. (AP Photo/Channi Anand, File)

A troop of monkeys reportedly attacked a lab assistant and escaped with coronavirus blood test samples in Delhi, the capital of India. The primates attacked the assistant near Meerut Medical College, Sky News reported, citing local Indian outlets.

The monkeys snatched COVID-19 blood test samples that had been taken from three patients and fled the scene with their prize. Locals spotted one of the monkeys sitting in a tree chewing one of the sample collection kits, the Times of India reported.

The researchers took more blood samples from patients.

According to Sky News, “the highly intelligent, red-faced rhesus macaques” have taken advantage of India’s nationwide lockdown in many ways. While the monkeys have proved an increasing problem in urban areas in recent years, the two months of lockdown in the world’s second-most populous country have only emboldened the monkeys further.

Reports have shown the primates congregating in parts of Delhi normally crowded with humans. The macaques have snatched food and mobile phones, broken into homes, and terrorized people in various ways in and around India’s capital. Monkeys have even colonized areas around the city’s parliament and key government offices, from the prime minister’s office to the finance and defense ministries.

People have been warned not to feed the monkeys, lest the coronavirus mutate and infect the primates as well.

A senior biologist from the Tail Nadu Forest Department warned that if the monkeys catch the coronavirus, the contagion could devastate other wildlife that preys on the primates.

“The point is, we have very little understanding of the virus, and it is better to limit our interactions with wildlife till there is more research done on its effects on non-human primates and other animal species,” the biologist told The Hindu.

The monkey coronavirus thieves remind me of my trip to South Africa as a boy. Near the end of the trip, my family was caught in traffic. When we walked to the front of the line of cars to investigate, we saw a baboon who had rifled through the back of an SUV, pilfering various items and terrorizing the drivers.

Disruptive apes may seem like a laughing matter, but their shenanigans can have devastating effects. Residents of Delhi are already terrified, but a mutating coronavirus could become more deadly after a round with the monkeys.

Even so, this story is good for some humor.

“Scientists: We will get you a cure. Later: We stored our coronavirus next to the disgruntled monkeys, you’re getting planet of the apes,” comedy writer James Felton tweeted.

Coronavirus. Murder hornets. Now Planet of the Apes?! Sometimes, it seems like 2020 is laughing at us, saying, “You ain’t seen nothing yet.”

Tyler O’Neil is the author of Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center. Follow him on Twitter at @Tyler2ONeil.

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