In a bid to ward off marauding monkeys that gather around the world-famous Taj Mahal, security guards have taken to patrolling the area with something new: slingshots, the New York Times reports. Indeed, the gangs of cheeky critters in Agra, India, may look cute, but tourists tend not to appreciate that they are dangerous, wild animals that bite and scratch when approached. "Foreign tourists get very excited to see the monkeys," says deputy security chief Dineshor Tongbram. "They try to go closer to them and become victims." In May, the Times of India reported on monkeys attacking two French tourists and in November the BBC reported on a baby that was snatched and killed by a monkey.
Tongbram says visitors suffer at least two attacks per month. "Monkeys get angry when they see empty-handed tourists," he adds. Worse, the monkeys’ aggressive nature has become such a problem that even Taj Mahal security staff feel threatened. Despite the danger, legislation in India forbids harming wild animals; and while some cities use fierce langur monkeys to ward off the threat, that's not allowed around the Taj Mahal. The mausoleum was built in the 1600s by the Muslim emperor Shah Jahan and attracts some 25,000 visitors daily, who in turn attract many monkeys scavenging for food that is discarded in trash cans by the site’s entrance. (Last year, a tiger that terrorized India was killed.)