Friday, 20 August 2010

The coconut monkey at work!

The coconut monkey at work!

This post is inspired by Khun Boonsong's blog post about a young girl in Isaan that climbs high into palm or coconut trees to get the fruit, a post well worth reading and checking out.

This girl climbed into an Areca nut tree or Mahkaam in Thai, without any help or aid which looked possibly 10 meters high, pretty impressive. In the comment section I mentioned that on Koh Samui this kind of work is only done by specially trained monkeys. It's also becoming a very rare trade and you don't get to see it that often, unless you go to one of the many monkey training schools.

To my big surprise during my recent visit to Koh Tao one of these specially trained monkeys was kicking down some coconuts. This picture shows the monkey sitting high in the crown of the coconut tree, possibly also 8 to 10 meters above the ground.

The monkey has a rope connected to a collar around his neck from which it gets directions from it's boss or trainer. On the ground, the monkeys boss gives directions and comments on which coconuts to throw to the ground.
Many people walking by or on motorbikes had to slow down or wait for a second or two in order to prevent getting a coconut thrown on top of their head. Coming from that height, most likely not a healthy impact and I wonder how many people yearly die or get injured because they're hit by falling coconuts.

It took me a while and various shots were wasted before I could get a falling coconut in a picture. The monkey twists and turns the chosen coconut around and than just lets it fall. Simple and effective.

The monkey on it's way down, he actually got entangled a moment after I took this picture and got to the ground by working the rope in the vegetation next to the coconut tree.

Here's our small hero, after a few minutes of work in the tree. He wasn't too impressed with all the folks taking pictures of him and actually threw a stick to some people. He was also hissing and making some noises whilst waiting for his boss, who took a motorbike with a side car mounted to it which was park a 100 meters away or so, to collect the coconuts and sell them on.



Mike said...

Camille great capture I have wanted to see one of these guys working for a while.

I know they are mostly trained in the South.

I also believe quite a few folk do indeed die from coconut strikes in Asian countries(no figures).

Camille said...

Hi Mike,

It was fascinating to see the monkey at work and it is also my understanding that this is mainly done in the South.

I would really like to know if there are stats on falling coconut related injuries.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for mentioning my blog post.
I enjoyed this post. Great photos and interesting commentary.

All the best, Boonsong

Camille said...

Hi Boonsong,

Good to see that you like the post, it was too good of an opportunity to pass up on!

Especially since the monkeys and their trade are becoming rare.

Lawrence said...

Thanks for this post, Camille. I've tried taking pics of this but have never got any as clear as yours.

There are a couple of monkeys employed around Phana to do this work. I guess they were trained in the south or on Samui because they are a species that we don't have here. They are pretty vicious toward strangers but always seem to have a good relationship with their owners. These might be their owners, too, but are certainly their source of food.

Camille said...

Hi Lawrence,

Good to see that you like the post. Although Samui is (or rather was) famous for the Coconut trade and subsequent trained monkey population, it's now difficult to see it around these shores and I was very delighted to witness this on Koh Tao.

Martyn said...

Camille I like this one, those coconut monkeys are so damn clever. I remember Lawrence's post about the monkey who came to his Phana village, I too would like to see one in action.

Here's a link to your query about deaths by falling coconuts....

Camille said...

Hi Martyn,

Thanks for dropping by and the link.
These little fellas are indeed clever and intriguing to watch during their work.

Catherine said...

Just the thought of monkeys armed with dangerous projectiles gives me the shudders!

But I guess it's one sure (and cheap) way to get coconuts down.

Camille said...

Hi Catherine,

They are dangerous projectiles indeed, as long as the monkeys aren't watching 'Planet of the Apes' we should be half ways ok.

Thanks for dropping by!