People in a south-western Japanese city have come under attack from monkeys that are trying to snatch babies, biting and clawing at flesh, and sneaking into nursery schools.
The attacks – on 58 people since July 8 – are getting so bad that Yamaguchi city hall has hired a special unit to hunt the animals with tranquiliser guns.
The monkeys are not interested in food, so traps have not worked.
They are so smart, and they tend to sneak up and attack from behind, often grabbing at your legsCity official Masato Saito
The animals have targeted mostly children and the elderly.
“They are so smart, and they tend to sneak up and attack from behind, often grabbing at your legs,” city official Masato Saito said.
When confronted by a monkey, the instructions are: do not look them in the eye, make yourself look as big as possible, such as by spreading open your coat, then back away as quietly as possible without making sudden moves, according to Saito.
A woman was assaulted by a monkey while hanging laundry on her veranda, while another victim showed bandaged toes.
They were taken aback and frightened by how big and fat the monkeys were.
The monkeys terrorising the community are Japanese macaque, the kind often pictured peacefully bathing in hot springs.
One male monkey, measuring 49 centimetres (1.6ft) in height and weighing seven kilograms (15lbs), was caught on Tuesday by the team with the tranquiliser gun.
It was judged by various evidence to be one of the attacking monkeys and put to death.
But more attacks were reported after the capture.
I have never seen anything like this my entire lifeCity official Masato Saito
No-one has been seriously injured so far, but all have been advised to get hospital treatment.
Ambulances were called in some cases.
Although Japan is industrialised and urban, a fair portion of land in the archipelago is mountains and forests.
Rare attacks on people by a bear, boars or other wildlife have occurred, but generally not by monkeys.
No-one seems to know why the attacks have occurred, and where exactly the troop of monkeys came from remains unclear.
“I have never seen anything like this my entire life,” Saito said.