Footage from a video taken in India went viral at the end of 2017. It shows a little boy playing with monkeys, which many were quick to label his “friends”. But is that really possible?
The boy with monkey friends.
The video in question shows eighteen-month-old Samarth sitting amongst a group of gray langur monkeys. The boy, from Karnataka, India, appears to be quite at ease as they take food out of his hands, run about near him, and even enter his house.
According to various media sources, the toddler has been feeding the monkeys since he was six months old. It is clear that the monkeys are at ease with his presence. The video even shows Samarth ‘playfully’ pulling one monkey’s tail, and chasing others, without retaliation.
Such monkeys in India have a reputation for showing aggressive behaviour, especially in relation to food.
His parents, apparently initially concerned by the events, sent him to a neighbouring village in the hope that the monkeys would calm down. However, the langurs returned each day and looked for him, causing havoc.
Now that he has retuned, they regularly spend time together. The monkeys visit the boy every day at 6am for food, after which they spend time together outside the house. Some locals say the boy has the favour of the Hindu monkey god, Hanuman. Others are concerned about his safety, although his parents say the monkeys have never bitten the boy.
Can humans and monkeys be ‘friends’?
According to National Geographic, the main facilitating factor in the bond was food. One expert interviewed from the University of Notre Dame also added that the boy’s small size might make him seem less of a threat.
The story reminded some viewers of accounts of feral children, supposedly adopted and raised by animals in the wild. While these stories have some truth to them, it appears that media attention can distort the nature of the relationships between feral human children and the animals that surround them.
Monkeys certainly have the ability to recognise certain humans, and even form surprising attachments. This is particularly evident in cases where monkeys have been raised in captivity for a large period of time or even their whole life.
Below, we have collected several videos showing the bond between human and monkey.