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In Thailand, coconuts are harvested by trained monkeys

MANILA, Philippines - In Thailand, coconut tree is known as “The Tree of Heaven.”

Ko Samui, one of Thailand’s most beautiful islands and perhaps the world’s, is an international destination with approximately over 30 tourist spots among them, over a dozen beaches where coconut trees are a symbol of seaside attraction.

Dubbed “The Coconut Island,” Ko Samui, which is visited all year-round by over four million visitors, is carpeted with over three million coconut trees which yield an annual harvest of some 40 million coconuts.

This writer had a chance to visit Ko Samui in 1998, with former National Press Club (NPC) president Fred Lobo of the Manila Bulletin; and the late Joe Capadocia of the Manila Times, after attending four-day convention of the Confederation of Asean Journalists (CAJ) in Bangkok, Thailand.

We visited a coconut plantation near a beach and there we saw monkeys harvesting coconuts. They are male pig-tailed monkeys trained (in special schools) to harvest coconuts. They climb up the trees, twist the nuts “round and round” until they get detached and toss them to the ground.

According to a coconut farmer we had talked with, one monkey can harvest 500 to 800 coconuts a day, while a human, he said, can harvest only about 100.

“The picking up of coconuts by trained monkeys are a big attraction to thousands of tourists visiting the island. At present, there about 160 trained monkeys in Ko Samui and they help a lot in our tourism activities,” he said, adding that the contribution of coconut to Thailand’s tourism industry is invaluable.

Thailand is the 6th largest producer of coconuts in the world. More than 80 percent of the island’s residents cultivate coconuts as their main occupation.

Coconut production in Thailand is year-round. Harvest time is between September and December.

In the Philippines, coconut is popularly known as “The Tree of Life.” It is grown as a major crop in 65 provinces. Over 20 million Filipinos are dependent directly and indirectly on the industry for livelihood.

At present, over three million hectares or 30 percent of the country’s agricultural lands is planted to over 300 million coconut trees with a yield of some 11 to 12 billion nuts annually.

A friend suggested that to harvest such a big number of nuts in a much faster way than the coconut farmers are doing  it right now which is slower, “why not train monkeys to do the job?

And they will do it gratis et amore! 

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