Creative Ideas: The scaretiger story

Long before homo sapiens stepped into Malaya, monkeys ruled the high lands. They swung from branch to branch, tree to tree, screeching, stealing food, scratching things and doing whatever it is monkeys do.

When the first hairless monkeys (that’s us) appeared, things began to change. Monkeys lost their homes, they became food, pets, target practice and, in some cases, clothing and accessory for the fashionable Negrito.

Many hundred generations later, monkeys (the hairier ones) remain a tad upset about the whole thing. Although if it were a Facebook post, the relationship between humans and monkeys can be best described as ‘Complicated’.

There’s a school in Padang Halban that trains macaques to climb trees and pluck coconuts. Importantly, it also trains them not to throw coconuts or any bodily excretion at their human owners.

Over the past four decades, thousands of monkeys have been taught the trade by a man known as Tok Wan. After completing the full course (which costs a mere RM150), a monkey can confidently and expertly pluck up to 800 coconuts a day.

Other monkeys help Vloggers create viral content. (‘BIT BY A MONKEY in Malaysia’ currently has 26.5K views and counting).

They also attract tourists and onlookers to parks and historic sites where the main attraction- according to officials- is “not monkeys”.


And then there are monkeys whose main purpose in life is to define the word ‘Nuisance’. They steal fruits, nibble on orchids, rip off car number plates, sexually harass the family cat and more.

At a military base in Melaka, rogue simians even overpowered a peaceful postman and looted confidential military documents. It is not known whether the culprits were ever caught.

At parks and tamans surrounded by forests, gangs of monkeys violently overturn trash cans in search of sustenance. Early morning joggers are often greeted by the sight of yoghurt bar wrappers and diet cola cans they threw away the day before.

w do you keep monkeys away, whether from trash cans or public areas? And can we really blame them for encroaching into the city after their leafy comforts were unceremoniously chopped down?


Every local university worth its salt will tell you they’re working on monkey-proof bins. Students from Universiti Kebangsaan Malaysia (UKM) once concocted a sambal belacan peanut mixture and attempted to feed them to unwary monkeys to deter/ repel these trespassers.

The monkeys are still around to this day, many with the hots for a midnight buffet at the university’s tong de sampah.

A quick search online will produce a list of ways to keep these nuisance-on-two-legs away. From hanging reflective CDs, to rubber snakes (alternate their resting places so that they appear alive and hissing), to powerful water sprinklers.

There are even monkey-proof bins. Invented many years back, these bins have somehow not caught on- possibly owing to the fact that lids are too heavy, the garbage is hard to remove, or most likely, adult humans themselves are baffled over how to use one.


Monkeys are afraid of a lot of things. Like bigger monkeys, for example. According to the BBC, the Indian parliament once hired 40 people to impersonate larger monkeys to scare away smaller monkeys.

“These people mimic the sound of the langur, and it scares the smaller, red-faced macaques away,” said New Delhi Municipal Corporation’s Chief Health Officer with a straight face.

Regrettably, the scarers did not dress up as langurs. Should efforts fail, the next step would be to pelt them (the monkeys) with rubber bullets until they learn not to enter government buildings.


Not to be outdone, PLUS officials at the Sg Perak R&R decided to one up the Indians. If monkeys are afraid of bigger creatures, what if we placed, say, a tiger in our vicinity to scare away these fur pests?

And so, a wire cage was erected at the Sungai Perak R&R. Inside, officials placed a life-sized sculpture of a tiger. From a distance, it really looked as if there was a large striped cat, mouth perpetually open, on a full-alert guard duty at the rest stop.

Lo and behold, the ‘tiger’ succeeded in keeping the monkeys away. Enterprising youngsters even took it a step further and started flogging tiger urine gel and tiger urine spray (get yours at to accompany your personal scaretiger.

The news spread on social media, and for a while, certain officials believed they hit upon a Nobel prize-winning idea. Unfortunately, the story doesn’t even end with an Effies case study. Nor will it be written about in a more respectable publication.

One of the braver monkeys eventually figured that either

1) The tiger is dead, on account that no living monkey has ever seen it move, or
2) The tiger can’t get out the cage.

Slowly, the macaques started coming back. They got nearer and nearer to the structure. A few people will even swear they saw these long-tailed lowlifes tap dancing on the cage.

Things returned to normal at the R&R- that is, if normal can be defined as monkeys mercilessly taunting and terrorizing unsuspecting motorists. As for the tiger urine gel and tiger urine spray? I hear they’re doing a roaring business.

Edward Ong is on a quest to discover and create Malaysia’s best ideas.
He is an award-winning Writer and Creative Director, and can be found at

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