The greatest ideas are not always so brilliant when executed. Case in point, the Chinese village of Xianfeng. Back in 2003, the community located in the southwestern Sichuan province decided to boost its tourism trade with the help of monkeys. The last 13 years have seen the monkey population soar and the tourist dollars plummet.
It all started with seventy-three adorable macaques. Residents concluded that tourists would flock to see the playful primates. After all, Mount Emei, a natural reserve in Sichuan Province, was full of tourists feeding and taking pictures with the cute apes. Residents failed to think through the fact that tourists were also visiting Emei Mountain because it is one of the Four Sacred Buddhist Mountains of China and a UNESCO World Heritage site. In either case, residents in Xianfeng spent almost two months bringing macaques from the surrounding mountains into the village.
In the beginning, everything went according to plan. Villagers reported thousands of tourists visiting each weekend. Everyone loved the monkeys. Then, in 2005, Zhou Zhenggu, the main investor in the macaque plan, who paid for their upkeep, died. With the primary funding source gone, however, villagers realized they could not afford to feed the monkeys. They assumed that if they stopped feeding the primates, they would return to the surrounding mountains. The villagers were wrong.
Rather than returning to their natural habitat, the monkeys stayed and bred. At the start of 2016, there were over 600 macaques. It has become their village. They survive by eating farmers’ crops and have destroyed villagers’ homes. The monkeys have even started to bite humans. As one might suspect, tourists no longer flock to the community. To make matters even worse, according to Chinese law, macaques are a protected species. This meant that specialty trappers had to come in and remove the primates under government supervision. The process took four years to complete and ended in May. However, there are still 300 monkeys roaming the village and attacking locals. Because they’ve been in the area for over a decade, Chinese law considers Xianfeng their natural habitat, which prevents trappers from returning for another ten years. The villagers are now considering abandoning their homes and moving to Chengdu.