A “rare and strange” fight over water may be the reason behind the deaths of more than a dozen monkeys in India, forest officials have said.
A boy from a village in Madhya Pradesh, a state in central India, earlier this week found a number of monkey corpses in a forest near Punjapura.
A forest department team sent to investigate the scene on Thursday said they found 15 carcasses inside and outside caves in the forest, which has been baking under temperatures of up to 45C in recent days.
PN Mishra, a district forest officer who led the team, said: “We’re probing all possibilities, including the possibility of conflict between groups of monkeys for water in the forest which led to the death of 15 monkeys from a 30-35-strong group of monkeys living in the caves.”
He told NDTV only a few patches of water remained for up to six groups of monkeys after the river running through the forest ran dry.
“Certain groups of monkeys which are large in number and dominate that particular part may have scared away the smaller group of monkeys from the water bodies,” Mr Mishra said.
Those smaller monkeys may have then been confined to their caves and – fearing violence if they left – later died due to their lack of access to water.
NDTV reported local government veterinarian Dr Arun Mishra, who performed autopsies on the carcasses, diagnosed heatstroke as a possible cause of the deaths.
“This is rare and strange as herbivores don’t indulge in such conflicts,” Mr Mishra said.
It comes amid a devastating heatwave across much of the country, which in Madhya Pradesh has seen clashes among locals over access to scarce water supplies.
Police in the state have been ordered to escort all water tankers and to guard water sources, the Times of India reported.