In Karnataka, monkey bite results in death of a 66-year-old man — forest officials claim ‘first case in the state’

The Forest Department has termed this a 'freak incident' and has sent blood samples of the monkey for testing for rabies and other infections.

ByBellie Thomas

Published Nov 16, 2023 | 7:01 PMUpdatedNov 16, 2023 | 8:12 PM

Monkey bite death Davangere: Deceased Guthyappa Rangappa and the captured monkey. (Supplied)

Monkey attacks on humans are common, with victims often escaping with scratches, bruises, or even gashes and slashes; however, the death of a 66-year-old man caused by the bite of a bonnet macaque seems beyond belief. But it is reality.

Terming this incident as “the first of its kind in the state”, the Forest Department officials did not want to take any chances with the monkey hurting other people in the village and so they captured it alive.

Though the killer monkey appeared to be calm and composed after it had been caged, the forest officials, along with veterinarians, will obtain blood samples and send them to Veterinary College, Hebbal, for rabies testing.

The samples will also be sent to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) in Pune to test for viral or bacterial infections.

The incident

The incident occurred in Honnalli in Karnataka’s Davangere district on Sunday, 12 November.

Guthyappa Rangappa, a 66-year-old resident of the Arakere village in Honnalli, had stepped out of his house early Sunday morning to attend nature’s call, when all of a sudden, the monkey sprang on him and attacked him.

The well-built male bonnet macaque monkey got a grip of Guthyappa’s left hand and bit him below the elbow.

“The monkey bit the man on the part of the arm where nurses and lab technicians usually draw blood. The injury was about 1.5 inches deep, rupturing the lateral veins,” Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF) Shashidhar told South First, quoting the doctors who treated Guthyappa at the Honnalli Taluk Government Hospital.

As the injury was deep, Guthyappa lost a significant amount of blood which led to his blood pressure falling below normal. The man succumbed to his injuries on Monday.

A medico-legal case (MLC) has been registered at the government hospital and it has been forwarded to the Honnalli police station who have taken up a case of unnatural death due to an animal bite. Guthyappa’s body was subjected to a postmortem and then handed over to the family members, who were in a state of shock.

Also read: Karnataka to use technology to prevent human-animal conflict

The capture of the monkey 

As the news spread throughout the village, senior forest officials as well former BJP MLA MP Renukacharya visited the family members and consoled them on Monday.

Meanwhile, the villagers voiced their concerns to the forest authorities about the man-animal conflicts in their village involving leopards and bears that stray into the village causing harm to humans and also their livestock.

The villagers also told the forest officials that the same monkey had previously attacked another person by the name of Prabhakar recently. He, however, managed to escape without any injuries.

DCF Shashidhar summoned his subordinates and instructed them to capture the monkey alive. A team of 30 forest officials, armed with tranquiliser guns, torches, and nets had camped out at the Arakere village looking for the monkey, but they could not find it.

On the following morning, 14 November, the DCF and his team spotted the monkey on a tree. A group of around 25 forest guards gathered under the tree and spread the net. One of the guards with a pole scared the monkey and it jumped into the net and it was captured without much difficulty.

The netted monkey was then transferred into a cage and brought to the Davangere Anagodu Indira Priyadarshini Mini Zoo where it is currently under observation. Veterinarians are continuously monitoring the monkey for any unusual signs and behaviour, but there are none so far.

“To rule out the possibility of rabies infection or any other viral or bacterial infections, the blood samples will be collected after a couple of days of observation and sent to Veterinary College Hebbal,” DCF Shashidhar told South First.

He added that “depending on the report from the veterinarians, the Forest Department will take a call on whether the monkey will be rehabilitated and released back to into the wild, or remain in captivity.”

Also read: Six injured as Kerala’s Kannur grapples with a jumbo-sized problem 

Ex-gratia of ₹15 lakh announced 

The authorities have also declared an ex-gratia amount of ₹15 lakh to the kin of the deceased, along with ₹4000 monthly for the next five years to the family of the deceased. This ex-gratia relief is granted based on a circular from the government on such rare cases of man-animal conflict, stated a senior forest official.

In March this year, BJP MP Rajkumar Chahar raised concerns in Parliament over cases of monkey menace in various states, and also sought clarification on the amount of ex-gratia relief to those who are affected by this menace.

However, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change countered in Parliament that it had no record of people injured or killed by monkey bites.