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The Garbage Eating Monkeys of the Nanjing Zoo

NANJING, China- “If I throw the monkeys my garbage will they eat it?” my daughter asked me as we stared into a pit dubbed Monkey Mountain. A more accurate moniker may have been Monkey Landfill. We were at the Nanjing zoo standing at the monkey exhibit. Below us in the enclosure were around 100 monkeys [...]

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Monkey drinking out of plastic soda bottleNANJING, China- “If I throw the monkeys my garbage will they eat it?” my daughter asked me as we stared into a pit dubbed Monkey Mountain. A more accurate moniker may have been Monkey Landfill.

We were at the Nanjing zoo standing at the monkey exhibit. Below us in the enclosure were around 100 monkeys playing, fighting, screwing, doing what monkeys do in piles of trash. Sometimes one would pause to eat the wrapper off an empty cracker package or lift a plastic soda bottle up to its lips in an attempt to suck out one final drop. These monkeys eat the snacks, drinks, and miscellaneous tidbits that visitors throw in to them from above. By the end of the day their enclosure is lined with refuse.

The monkeys sloshed thorough the muck of candy wrappers, plastic bottles, and disposable cups as they came over and sat right below my daughter and I. They were begging for treats. They looked up with longing eyes and long faces that could not be topped by even a Kathmandu street kid. If they could only say “No mammi, no pappi, no chappati,” they could have put their human brethren out of a job. One particularly adept monkey precisely mimicked the way my daughter was drinking her juice box. They wanted us to throw them food and drink, as hundreds of other visitors obviously had throughout the day.

There were literally over a dozen trash cans around the monkey exhibit along with signs saying not to throw food to the clever primates within, but it all went ignored. Apparently, watching monkeys eat human junk food and play with garbage is far too amusing for the people of China. I watched as an old man walked up to the enclosure and nonchalantly tossed a cracker into the enclosure. A mad scrambled ensued and a larger sized male monkey emerged victorious. The old man smiled with delight, turned, and walked away.

This is usual in China, a country were it is not uncommon for inactive animals in zoo exhibit to be beaned with garbage by a crowd anxious for action. I mentioned that I visited the Nanjing zoo to a Chinese acquaintance in Taizhou, and she squirmed with delight and began telling me about the zoo in her city: “There are monkeys and you can feed them! They are very clever because they stick out their hands and wait for it.”

Watch the garbage eating monkeys at the Nanjing zoo

Monkey asking for food

Monkey asking for food

Monkey on the left is mimicking how my daughter was drinking her juice box

Monkey Mountain

Garbage eating monkeys

Filed under: Animals, China

About the Author:

I am the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 90 countries. I am the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to The Guardian, Forbes, Bloomberg, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3617 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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VBJ is currently in: Astoria, New York

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