But these guys aren't fooling around. Nigel Benson previews
Dark Days in Monkey City.
One of the most extraordinary wildlife documentary programmes
to screen in New Zealand premieres tonight.
Dark Days in Monkey City visits a warring colony of
toque macaques in the ancient Sri Lankan temple city of
Polonnaruwa - known by locals as "Monkey City".
The decaying jungle city was once ruled by Buddhist and Hindu
kings, but is now bossed by gangs of feisty monkeys.
The ruins of the crumbling temples are turned into a savage
battlefield as the monkeys fight for supremacy and survival
against predators like flesh-eating monitor lizards.
It is nature's own rumble in the jungle.
The 13-part series was created for Animal Planet by Dunedin's
Natural History New Zealand film unit.
The toughest tribe in Monkey City is the Temple Troop, which
staunchly defends the best real estate in the area at Fig
Their main enemies are the neighbouring Black Claws, who will
stop at nothing to conquer that territory so they no longer
have to feed on a diet of human rubbish.
The monkeys grow to 35cm in length (excluding tail), weigh up
to 8.4kg and operate in troops of up to 20 soldiers.
The tension between the groups grows as they head for all-out
Dark Days blends wildlife footage with special effects
to show the animals' highly complex society, in which rank
and hierarchy determine nearly every aspect of day-to-day
The NHNZ crew spent nearly a month at Polonnaruwa Nature
Sanctuary and Archaeology Reserve in Sri Lanka filming the
monkeys in front of big green screens.
It took a week to build a portable studio featuring backdrops
and a small stage painted with a special shade of green
especially imported from New Zealand.
Then the monkey business started, as the crew tried to entice
the wild macaques on to the set for filming.
They shot sequences created through comic book-style story
boards crafted months before the shoot.
"We knew exactly what we wanted when we went to Sri Lanka,"
series producer Ian McGee says.
"We had wonderful story boards and fantastic shooting
"The trouble is, the monkeys didn't read them.