• Kyodo

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A city in Nagano is combining modern technology with specially trained dogs to chase away wild monkeys that have ventured from nearby mountains to ruin crops and damage property.

In April, the city of Omachi, Nagano Prefecture, began using GPS to monitor the movement of wild monkeys that have devoured crops such as apples and buckwheat seeds, annoyed local residents with their feces and urine and damaged roof tiles.

“There have been an increasing number of abandoned crop fields behind houses and wildlife habitats are believed to have come closer to where people live,” a city official said.

Omachi officials are now considering connecting the GPS tracking devices attached to the necks of the monkeys with smartphone apps, so a more traditional deterrent can also be used.

Since 2005, the city has trained canines, known as “monkey dogs,” to deter the unwanted raiders.

At present, 21 such dogs are used to control the around 900 monkeys estimated to live in the city.

A 'monkey dog' trained to chase away wild primates works in Omachi, Nagano Prefecture. | KYODO
A ‘monkey dog’ trained to chase away wild primates works in Omachi, Nagano Prefecture. | KYODO

“It is important for local residents to work together to prevent damage. By using continuously advancing technology, we would like to manage each of the (15 to 16) monkey groups,” said Takahiro Isomoto, a 67-year-old dog trainer.

Omachi was the first city in Japan to introduce a training program for monkey dogs, after past tactics such as using loud noises and fireworks failed. With the deployment of the dogs, the number of wild monkeys spotted in residential areas has sharply dropped, according to the city.

Dogs of any breed can be placed in a five-month training session after a trainer deems them capable. They must learn not to injure people, chase only monkeys and return to their owners when called.

The last point is especially important as in the past, some dogs were hit by cars as they were too absorbed in the monkey chase.

To keep them safe, the Omachi Municipal Government has put up signs along the main roads that read, “Reduce speed. Monkey dogs are working.”

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