Dark Days in Monkey City

Dark Days in Monkey City
Dark Days in Monkey City
Genre Nature
Written by Ian McGee[2][3][4]
(script advisors Joe Casey
Joe Kelly)[5]
Narrated by John Rhys-Davies
Composer(s) The Sound Room
Country of origin New Zealand
Language(s) English
No. of series 1
No. of episodes 13[6][7]
Executive producer(s) Lawrence Cumbo (NHNZ)[4]
Erin Wanner (Animal Planet)[8]
Producer(s) Ian McGee
Location(s) Sri Lanka
Cinematography Stephen Downes[8]
Scott Mouat[9]
Running time 22 minutes
Production company(s) NHNZ Ltd.
Original channel Animal Planet
Original run 24 February 2009 (2009-02-24)[10] – 14 May 2009 (2009-05-14)[11]
Related shows Temple Troop[12]
External links
Production website

Dark Days in Monkey City is an Animal Planet documentary about the lives of Toque Macaques in the wild of Sri Lanka and gives us an insight as to what their complex and high political lives are all about. The programme features two rival macaque tribes, the Temple Troop and their ancient foes the Black Claws. These two rival tribes battle for supremacy and their ancient rivalry shapes and dominates the lives of all the macaques in Monkey City.


Production details

Natural History New Zealand had story boarded the action in advance, and shot the macaques (on location) for a month against portable green screens.[13] Though that green screen footage was used (combined with CGI in post production.[14]) the original script was abandoned in favor of the animal's real behavior - according to series producer Ian McGee.[15]

After green screen filming was complete, the cameras followed the most charismatic monkeys for ten weeks in their natural habitat.[16]


Most critics gave moderate recommendations, but preferred Meerkat Manor in the "docu-soap hybrid" genre,[4] feeling Dark Days was over-produced and less credible.[8] Many felt its "intense" visual style (indebted to 300 and Sin City)[14][17] didn't match the available live action footage,[8][18][19] and that the narration was overblown.[20]

Broadcast schedule

The announced schedule was to air all 13 episodes in successive weeks on Animal Planet (starting 2009-02-24) but only two weeks (and four episodes) were shown on that initial run.[7] All 13 episodes were broadcast later in 2009, and were released on DVD (which included a 14th, "making-of" episode).

Smithsonian Primate Project

This is only the latest TV series to be based on the Smithsonian Institution Primate Biology Program (PBP) in the "Monkey City", Polonnaruwa.[21] At least two earlier series have documented the PBP's animals,[22] including "The Temple Troop" which followed a the Temple Macaques for an entire year.[12]

Dark Days in Monkey City uses footage from the PBP,[23] which has been studying the Polonnaruwa macaques since 1968 (and is the longest continuous study of vertebrate population dynamics in a varying environment). The study's conductor, Wolfgang Dittus said, "We have promoted and participated in film documentaries on the premise that the public will conserve only that which they love, and love only that which they understand".[22]


The central narrative over the series' 13 episodes is the struggle between two macaque tribes: the Black Claws, and the Temple Troop.[24]

Temple Troop

At the beginning of the programme we are introduced to the Temple Troop, a troop of Toque macaques who live in a temple area known as Fig Tree Vale. Here the troop get food by adapting their diet to the various types of figs which give their home its name. The troop is led by Lear, the King, who has been the dominant male for nearly 4 years. Lear may be old but he is still capable of looking after himself. One of Lear's biggest concerns is being deposed, which, with the arrival of Hector, seems destined to come true.

Hector is a recent addition to the Temple Troop and seems discontent with his social position. He challenges King Lear and, during a large scuffle, Lear falls to the ground from a tree, which costs him his throne. Hector is the new King and takes advantage of his new found authority by abusing others. He bullies his subordinates, using any excuse to displace the other monkeys. However, for Hector to retain power, he needs the support of Gemini, the Queen of the Temple Troop.

Gemini, the matriarch, rules Fig Tree Vale. After King Lear is deposed, Gemini turns her attention to Hector, who basks in it. Although Gemini has a lot of power, this is not true of all the females in the troop; Portia is lower down the hierarchy, and she is not allowed to eat or drink before the others and frequently gets displaced by the other monkeys. To make matters even worse, she is pregnant, and it will be hard for her to provide a good life for the infant. When Portia's baby is born, Portia decides to make her way up the hierarchy to give her son a better life. The Temple Troop's arch rivals, the Black Claws, invade their territory. Led by their ancient Queen Pandora, the Black Claws drive the Temple Troop out of Fig Tree Vale.

Life in exile is tough for the Temple Troop. Gemini is trying to find a suitable home for her troop when, suddenly, they run into Che, a wandering male. Che is used to the bad lands and therefore proves to be a good asset to the troop, especially Gemini and Portia, but grumpy King Hector is not impressed with him. To Hector, Che is a new rival for the throne. The Temple Troop comes into conflict with a city troop when they try to invade the market, so the troop returns to the dusty bad lands. Just when Che is settling in to his new home, his wandering band of bachelor males shows up. This is the moment Che has dreaded; he knew that the presence of his comrades would give Hector the excuse to banish him from the Temple Troop. Che turns on his former buddies to remain in the troop, and, later on, the bachelor band joins the Temple Troop, much to Gemini's delight, as the more males means the more warriors to fight the Black Claws. Strong and confident, the exiled Temple Troop march towards Fig Tree Vale to confront their ancient foes, the Black Claws.


Lear was King of the Temple Troop. Lear had been the ruler and leader of the troop for four years and although getting old, he definitely still had some fight left in him. His Queen Gemini, stuck with her old King but even Lear knew very well that he may not keep his crown for long. The number-one threat to Lear's thrown was Hector. Hector became part of the Temple Troop recently and his ambitions to become a King grew along with his confidence, all he had to do was to defeat Lear. Lear watched as his rival forced his authority on the other monkeys but still, Lear did not confront the upstart.Hector targeted one of youngsters to show off his dominance. Surely Gemini and Portia looked to him to put a stop to Hector's brutal antics, but Lear still did not react. Eventually Lear reacted and confronted Hector with a stare. Hector backed down and Lear restored order, but for how long. After Hector gathered some alliances from the other males who sided with him, he confronted Lear. Lear fought with Hector up a tree. Hector dispatched Lear and Lear fell to the ground. Lear survived his encounter but his defeat cost him his throne. Hector became the new King of the Temple Troop. When the Black Claws invaded Fig Tree Vale and confronted the Temple Troop, Lear played an active role in their defence and he and Hector and the other males managed to drive away the Black Claw invaders. Lear was clearly useful but Hector still remained uneasy about the presence of his former ruler. Portia's baby wandered into the sight of a feral dog and Lear confronted the dog and Portia's baby (also his baby) was saved. Portia clearly owed her baby's life to Lear. The Black Claws returned with full reinforcement and after a ferocious battle, Lear was killed in the fight.


The Temple Troop's Queen, Gemini, reigns supreme in her home of Fig Tree Vale. Gemini and her sisterhood are the core of the troop and Gemini rules Fig Tree Vale, it has been her home all her life. Although things might be tranquil on the surface, but deep inside, things are boiling up within the politics of the troop. Her old King Lear seemed to be getting slower the past days and newcomer Hector, is rising in rank and status. Gemini did take an interest in Hector, sensing that Lear may one day be displaced and Hector will become the new King of the troop.Gemini showed advances to Hector behind Lear's back and when Hector became brutal and attacked an infant, Gemini expected Lear to act but still, he did nothing. Gemini lost hope in Lear and turned her attention to the upcoming Hector. Finally Hector defeated Lear in a fight and Gemini had Hector as her new King. The Black Claws, the ancient foes of the Temple Troop, invaded Fig Tree Vale and after a battle, The Temple Troop's older ruler Lear died and Gemini and her troop were driven out by Pandora's triumphant Black Claws. Life in exile was a crushing blow for the troop's matriarch and Gemini had a task on her hand to find a new home for the troop. When food and water was scarce in the bad lands, her greedy and selfish King Hector, used up all the resources he found, only thinking about himself. Gemini could see that Hector wasn't the type of King she hoped he would be. While still in exile, the Temple Troop met Che, a wandering bachelor male and Gemini was pleased about Che's food finding skills. Che led Gemini and the Temple Troop to the land of the humans and Gemini and her troop found food, but it came at a cost. While the troop was crossing a road fleeing from the feeding site they were in, one of infants was hit by a car. Gemini's hopes for a new home were dashed again and her reality was to face life in the bad lands. Fortunately, her army grew stronger with the arrival of Che's band of wandering males and Gemini felt the confidence needed to lead her Temple Troop back to Monkey City and face the Black Claws to reclaim her home, Fig Tree Vale.


Hector joined the Temple Troop recently and is very dissatisfied with his social position in the troop. Hector has always dreamed of becoming a King, and all he will have to do is to defeat Lear, the King of the Temple Troop. Hector always had a bullying character and this was very apparent as he forced his dominance on the lower ranked members of the troop. He was only keen on determining his authority. Hector's brutal antics went too far, when he attacked Gemini, the Queen of the troop. Lear's patience finally snapped, it was a poor act of disrespect and insubordination. Lear confronted Hector but backed down. Hector, hardly believing his luck, grew in more confidence and had the attention of the Gemini, once she saw her King Lear falling. Hector managed to join alliances with some of the other males who sided with him and betrayed Lear. Hector finally made a bid for the throne and challenged Lear to a battle. Hector and Lear fought up a tree until finally Hector dislodged Lear and he fell to the ground. Hector, triumphantly claimed the throne and became the King of the Temple Troop. He won the advances of Queen Gemini as well as authority over all members, including Lear. A small troop of invading Black Claws invaded Fig Tree Vale and Hector along with Lear, chased away the intruding males. The Black Claws arrived to invade their territory again and war broke out between the two tribes. Lear was killed and Hector and the Temple Troop were forced out of Monkey City and into the exile of wandering the bad lands. In the bad lands, Hector knew what would happen to the troop if they don't find refuge soon. Water was scarce and when Hector found a tap, he drank and took a bath from it, not thinking of the other troop members' thirst. Hector shared with no one and greediness grew. The bad lands were no place for a King, so Hector tried to lead the troop back to their normal home range but Gemini knew that humans meant food and lead the troop to the lands of the humans. Hector knew the trouble that emerge from the humans, as a wandering male once himself, he watched as his brother was captured. Hector remained very uneasy in the sight of humans. Portia led the troop int finding a field of baked rice scattered everywhere. Seeing the abundant food source, even Hector could think of nothing else but his stomach. The troop were then caught out and fled the seen, crossing the road but in the process, one of Hector's lieutenants was hit by a car. Hector was furious, he knew that coming to the lands of the humans was bad, and for what, 'just a few grains of rice!'. The Temple Troop retired back to the bad lands. Che, a wandering male, joined the troop, to Hector's dismay. Gemini,Portia and the rest of the troop found Che a good asset, but only Hector remained suspicious. To him, Che was a present rival for the throne. The Temple Troop were led to the market but after another approach, they met with a city troop and were defeated. Hector and the troop returned to the bad lands and his problems rose, his Queen Gemini was showing far too much attention to Che and Hector becoming aggressive and suspicious. If the Temple Troop were to regain their home, Fig Tree Vale, they would need all the warriors. Hector knew that Che and his new band of wandering males(who joined the troop later on) would be a good asset, but in the same time, Che had more allies and could make a bid for the throne.


As the lowest ranking female in the Temple Troop, Portia's always had a tough life being at the bottom of the pile. To make matters harder, her baby was arriving and to provide her baby with a good life, Portia needs to get off the bottom of the hierarchy. Portia watched as the troop's King Lear, backed down to Hector's challenge. When Hector let out his frustration and attacked one of the youngsters,Portia was appalled and looked at Lear to put a stop to Hector's brutal acts but still, Lear did nothing. Portia had every reason to worry. If a new male takes over a troop he will most probably kill all the babies fathered by the previous male. Portia was carrying one of the babies of the KIng so she hoped that Lear will hold on to his position and not loose it to Hector, who often attacked low ranking monkeys like Portia. Her baby arrived alive and well and Portia was to provide a better life for her son. To her dismay, Lear was defeated by Hector who became the brutal King of the Temple Troop. Hector was aggressive and was not the King Portia hoped for but this was not her present problem. When Portia found food, she was often displaced by Gemini, the Queen of the Temple Troop and the other high ranking females. Portia's baby wandered away and came within sight of a feral dog. Lear put himself between the dog and the youngster and Portia's baby was safe. The Black Claws, the ancient rival tribe of the Temple Troop, invaded Fig Tree Vale and with the death of Lear, the Temple troop were driven out of their home range by the Black Claws. Portia and the temple troop lived in the bad lands were food and water alike was very scarce. Then Hector found a tap with dripping water. Portia and her baby desperately needed a drink, but Hector used up all the water. Finally when the greedy King had his fill, the other members took turns. Portia had to wait for her turn as even high ranking infants have a turn before Portia. Portia finally got her chance at the tap but the water had already dried up. Portia's predicament brightened up with the arrival of Che, a wandering male who managed to join the Temple Troop after a romantic meeting with Portia. Hector was suspicious of the newcomer but Portia and Gemini were pleased about Che's food finding skills. Portia was the first to discover a rice field and the troop finally had an abundant source of food but the dram as short lived with the arrival of the humans who put the troop to flight and while crossing the road, one of infants was hit by a car. Portia held on to her baby tightly, very aware that it could have been her baby hit by the object on the road. Che led the Temple Troop into the heart of the lands of the humans and to the market. Portia and the troop finally had hope of finding a new home with abundance of food but after they came into battle with city troop, they went back to the bad lands. Che's former bachelor band joined the troop, adding more warriors. The Temple Troop marched back to Monkey City and into closer range of Fig Tree Vale. It was time for Portia to give her son a better life by rising up the hierarchy. Portia was constantly being bullied by Cassandra, her cousin and a high ranked female. Portia backed down for now. Then she watched as Cassandra bullied Ophelia. Finally Portia took it no longer and ganged up on her bullying cousin Cassandra with Ophelia and the two drove Cassandra down the pecking order. Finally, Portia was no longer the lowest ranked female in the troop and she and Temple Troop marched to Fig Tree Vale to confront the Black Claws.


Che was a wandering male who encountered the Temple Troop many times before. While in the bad lands, Che came across the exile Temple Troop and managed to join them. Gemini and Portia as well as most of the other members of the troop willing accepted Che as part of the troop but not Hector, the King of the Temple Troop. Che started off with a meeting with Portia and the two got together in the forest. Hector was suspicious of the two. Portia rejoined the troop and emboldened with his encounter with Portia, Che joined the troop with total confidence. While in the forest, one of Gemini's adolescent daughters was playing in the leaf litter when Che sounded the alarm when he saw the python. With Che's alarm, the troop was safe. Che's act of courage impressed the troop's Queen Gemini as well as low ranking Portia but not Hector. Hector still saw Che as a rival, not an asset for the troop. Che was experienced with life in the bad lands and led the Temple Troop into the land of the humans. He led the troop to the market. Hector was reluctant to follow into the lands of the humans but he wasn't willing to leave his queen alone with Che. The Temple Troop had an abundance of food at the market and the future looked bright. Che suddenly left the Temple Troop and joined the resident city troop, who were said to be some of the former members of Che's wandering band of males. In their second visit, the Temple Troop came into conflict with e city troop and among the fighters at the city troop's front line, was Che. The Temple Troop was shocked to see Che changing troops with the rival troop. As the two troops fought, Che suddenly switched again and sided with the Temple Troop, attacking the city troop. Che and Temple Troop were forced to retreat. Just when Che was settling in with the Temple Troop, his roving band of bachelor males showed up. This was the thing Che was dreading, he knew very well that the presence of the wandering males would give Hector the right excuse to banish Che from the troop. While Hector was watching, Che suddenly made his choice and attacked the wandering males and drove then away. Hector was impressed though still uneasy of Che. Gemini was impressed and paid Che a lot of attention, much to Hector's paranoia. The wandering males then returned and Che persuaded them to join the Temple Troop. Gemini was impressed, this meant that she had a bigger army. With the Temple Troop large and strong, the troop marched to Fig Tree Vale to confront the Black Claws with Che, Hector and the other male warriors in toe, the Temple Troop Queen Gemini leads the troop to battle to reclaim Fig Tree Vale.


Cassandra was the bullying high ranked cousin of Portia. Cassandra often bullied Portia and made sure that Portia knew her place in the troop, at the bottom of the pecking order. Portia stood up for herself but Cassandra had allies and Portia backed down, only then. Having put Portia in her place, Cassandra and her allies then attacked and chased another low ranked female, Ophelia. Portia watched but could stand her cousin's antics no longer and together with Ophelia, faced Cassandra. Cassandra was not willing to give up her rank without a fight but Portia and Ophelia triumphantly drove Cassandra to back down in defeat. When Hector took out his anger on one of the members, it was Cassandra who was the victim of Hector's bullying of frustration. She became a lower ranking member and Portia rose up the pecking order.


Ophelia became Portia's new friend and ally. She too was a low ranking female in the Temple Troop. While Ophelia was being attacked by Cassandra, Portia came to Ophelia's rescue and the two low ranking females teamed up and faced Cassandra, a bullying high ranking female, slightly above Portia. Cassandra eventually backed down and during a wrath from Hector, the King of the Temple Troop, she fell right down the pecking order. Portia and Ophelia rose above her.

Black Claws

The Black Claws are a street bred troop of Toque macaques who live in the periphery of Monkey City. The Black Claws are the ancient foes of the Temple Troop. The Black Claws ancient Queen, Pandora, has for a long time dreamed of Fig Tree Vale. The Temple Troop have Fig Tree Vale and its abundance of food and water, Pandora's Black Claws are living rough in the streets, relying of tourists for food source. Pandora tires of scavenging, its time for her Black Claws to get a better life and that life which they are looking fore, is at Monkey City's Fig Tree Vale. The Black Claws' King Goliath led a small party of Black Claws and invaded Fig Tree Vale. The intruders were quickly sent packing by the Temple Troop males but there were to be back. The next Black Claw invasion was the full reinforcement of the entire Black Claw troop,marching to war with the Temple Troop. Goliath faced Hector while Pandora faced Gemini. The Black Claws were larger and stronger than the Temple Troop and eventually drove them out of Fig Tree Vale and out of Monkey City. Pandora's Black Claws were triumphant and took over the territory. Just when Pandora was settling in to her new empire state, a troop of Langur monkeys invaded Fig Tree Vale. The Black Claws drove the 'guardians of Hanuman' and Pandora paid the price for her action. After a rain storm, Pandora disappeared and was founded to have died of an unknown cause. Her youngest daughter, Scarlett, took over the throne and became the new Queen of the Black Claws. The King of the Black Claws, Goliath, was a bit concerned about the new matriarch of the troop. He needed to win favour with Scarlett if he was to remain King of the troop. Scarlett was a ruthless queen who was greedy with food and she and her aristocratic sisters did not allow the lower class family any where near the figs and food resources. The Black Claws is the combination of two bickering clans. Pandora normally dominated both clans but now, Scarlett has trouble in her hands with the upcoming second-class clan, and the leader of this lower clan is Jezebel. Jezebel has watched Scarlett monopolise the food and Jezebel and her family are tired of being at the lower end, it was time for change. Unable to directly defeat Scarlett and her aristocratic sisters, Jezebel led her half of the troop back to their ancestral lands, the car park. Jezebel had ambitions to start a new empire but all she needed was king. A subordinate male called Achillies, fell to Jezebel's charms and betrayed Goliath. Goliath and Scarlett were dismayed to find Jezebel, Achillies and their own empire. Scarlett's troop went into conflict with Jezebel's troop and unable to defeat Scarlett's aristocratic troop, Jezebel and her empire backed down, for then. But now the Black Claws are about to have a battle in their hands, as the Temple Troop are now returning to Fig Tree Vale to face their ancient foes.


The Black Claws cunning old Queen, Pandora, has long dreamed of Fig Tree Vale. Her arch enemies the Temple Troop enjoy the figs and resources, while her Black Claws scavenge for scraps in the streets. Pandora tired of scavenging and living a life in the street, it was time for the Black Claw matriarch to lead her troop into taking over Fig Tree Vale, all she needed was a destruction. The males in the Temple Troop were battling for supremacy and this weakened the Temple Troop's defence. It was just the event Pandora was waiting for. Finally Pandora and the Black Claws invaded Fig Tree Vale and went into battle with Temple Troop. The Black Claws were larger in number and certainly had more warriors, so victory was assured. Pandora's Black Claws were able to drive the Temple Troop of and out of Fig Tree Vale. The Temple Troop were exiled out of Monkey City and into the bad lands. Pandora had finally got her dream, Fig Tree Vale is hers and she is Queen of Monkey City. Pandora kept the bickering clans in her troop under her control and had the full support of her king Goliath. As all seemed tranquil, Pandora faced an invasion of Langur monkeys who invaded her territory. She remembered the black faced monkeys invaded the car park, her former home, and now she was not about to tolerate their presence in her new territory either. The Black Claws were able to drive away the Langurs, but it would come at a price. The Langurs were said to be sacred as the 'guardians of Hanuman' and by driving them away, Pandora was directly defying the gods and she paid a price for it. After a rain storm, Pandora disappeared and was found to have died, its uncertain what caused her death. Her crown was passed on to her youngest daughter Scarlett.


Goliath is the King of the Black Claws and a formidable fighter. His Queen Pandora did not rest until the Black Claws were in Fig Tree Vale and sooner than they expected it, the Black Claws had their way. Goliath led a small party of Black Claws which invaded Fig Tree Vale. At first the Temple Troop were nowhere in sight so the Black Claws had a green light and stuffed their cheek pouches with figs. Eventually Goliath and his raiding party were caught off guard by the Temple Troop. Facing Hector, the King of the Temple Troop and Lear, the former King as well as the other warriors of the Temple Troop, Goliath and his raiding party fled, round one went to the Temple Troop. Finally Pandora led the Black Claws invasion and went into battle with the Temple Troop for Fig Tree Vale. The Temple Troop were driven out and the Black Claws triumphantly took over Fig Tree Vale. Goliath and his queen Pandora now had an empire at Monkey City. Following an invasion of Langur monkeys, Pandora died and the throne was taken by her youngest daughter Scarlett. Goliath remained King but he was a bit nervous about the prospect of his new queen. Goliath needed to stay in Scarlett's good books which he did manage to do, but not even he expected treason within the troop. The matriarch of the lower class monkeys, Jezebel, tired of living under Scarlett and putting up with her greediness, so she splintered away with her lower class family. Goliath accepted Jezebel's advances but he soon had a rival. Achilles, one of Goliath's lieutenants, was also eyeing up Jezebel and Goliath made sure his lieutenant knows where he stands. Eventually Achilles and Goliath fought and Goliath won, remaining supreme. Achilles fell for Jezebel's advances and he joined her with the rest of her troop back at the Black Claws' ancestral' territory, the car park. Goliath, Scarlett and her aristocratic troop confronted Jezebel's empire and were victorious in defeating the rebel troop, but now Goliath and the Black Claws have a battle on their hands with the return of the Temple Troop.


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  24. ^ "Meet the Monkeys of Monkey City'". Animal Planet. http://animal.discovery.com/tv/dark-days-monkey-city/meet-the-monkeys/. Retrieved 2010-05-21. "The Temple Troop is the staunch defender of Fig Tree Vale, the best territory in Monkey City" 

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