- At the heaviest, Godzilla weighed 20 kg and Uncle Fatty 27 kg
- One of the macaques is believed to have eaten itself to death after the ‘fat camp’
Thailand is home to hundreds of thousands of monkeys, but most won’t be known by name, wear tank tops or gorge on copious diets of junk food.
Enter Uncle Fatty and Godzilla, the legendary big apes whose lives of indulgence brought them fame, but also had devastating consequences for their health.
Cruelly leashed and raised on a diet of junk food, Godzilla’s weight soared to over 20kg, and he became a major tourist attraction at his owner’s market stall in Bangkok.
He was quick to draw comparisons to Uncle Fatty, another popular overweight primate, who tipped the scales at 27kg and is believed to be between 10 and 15 years old.
Both forced into fat camp, the primates were able to shift some of their weight through strict diets. But after returning to the wild and not being seen in years, Uncle Fatty is now believed to have eaten himself to death.
Living in the wild near a floating water market in Bangkok, Uncle Fatty had a lavish lifestyle.
The elderly monkey was popular with locals and tourists alike, gobbling up any food it could get its paws on.
But the abundance of food offered to him by visitors, which included sweet melons and sweet corn as well as extremely unhealthy human foods like milkshakes and noodles, meant he was piling on the pounds.
With macaques normally weighing between eight and 10kg, the 27kg beast weighed the same as three of its fellows.
He left the authorities no choice but to intervene and he was taken in for a checkup.
They decided to send the chubby guy to monkey “fat camp” to try to reduce his weight to a more acceptable 8 kg.
In 2017, Thailand’s primate conservation group “Monkey Lovers” said the uncle wasn’t sick – he was just fat – and wanted him back with his friends.
Organizer Kawinoat MongKholtechaphat said at the time: “Uncle got fat because he just ate everything people gave him.
“He’s not sick, he just needs help. He likes to eat and there are lots of visitors and tourists feeding him all day.’
Kawinoat said the uncle plays an important role in the community of monkeys that roam freely around the market in Bang Khun Thian district.
He added: “He is a leader for the young monkeys. He teaches them important things, how to survive.
“He is old now and likes to eat a lot. We want the monkeys to be free outside where they are happy.
National Parks, Wildlife and Plant Conservancy then transferred the uncle to a wildlife rescue center in Nakhon Nayok about 100 miles away, where he could receive regular checks.
He was put on a strict diet and made to run and swing with other animals to lose weight.
But tragically, having not been seen since June 2019, Uncle Fatty is now believed to have eaten himself to death.
Although Uncle Fatty’s body was never found, experts say it’s likely the elderly animal died because monkeys isolate themselves when they know they are weak, so that the others do not see them die.
Debate remains on whether the aged animal died of his junk food attacks or of old age.
Officials at the time blamed the tourists, who they said “killed him with kindness” because he was constantly being offered food.
The body of the big ape was never found.
Soon after, images of Godzilla, an equally large primate, emerged from another market in Bangkok, this time being kept as a pet by a merchant.
The three-year-old rose to fame after a video of him tied to a stall in Bangkok’s Min Buri district went viral.
Buyers regularly crowded outside the stall where the monkey sat in an attempt to feed it, raising fears the huge animal could suffer the same fate as its wild relative.
His diet consisted of fruits and nuts, as well as unhealthy sweets and sugary syrup drinks.
Godzilla also became famous for the tight-fitting t-shirts his owner dressed him in.
In one video, the monkey was seen slumping on a cushion as visitors rubbed their backs.
He was also spoiled with numerous toys according to officials, including a plastic water bottle which he throws in a single clip.
Former Godzilla owner Manop Emsan says the monkey’s parents were killed by a car when he was a baby and a previous owner abandoned him.
He kept the monkey as a pet – illegal under the country’s wildlife laws – and let him nibble all day while he manned his stall selling meatballs.
Shopkeeper Manop said he adopted Godzilla after being abandoned by the stall’s former owner.
Manop insisted that he feed the monkey and treat him well, but could not control his weight.
“The rescue team found Godzilla when he was a toddler. And since he grew up being fed by humans, he doesn’t know how to find food on his own in the wild,” said said Manop.
Wildlife officials visited the market in the Min Buri district of the Thai capital on March 25, 2021, and Godzilla was carried away in a cage.
He was sent to fat camp by wildlife officials a day later to try and control his extreme weight.
Navee Changpirom, Chief Forester at Thailand’s Department of National Parks, said: “Godzilla’s weight still exceeds the normal standards for most common macaque monkeys, which do not exceed 22 pounds (10 kg).
“He also has behavioral issues because he has too many toys from his previous owner.
“He is very possessive of them, guarding them like a treasure and not allowing anyone to take them easily. If someone tries to pick them up, they will pick them up immediately.
Changpirom said: “We received a report from someone who was worried about the health of the monkey.
“Our investigation then found the owner. He said he took the monkey home and took great care of it like one of his family. He and his family fed the monkey so well that it grew fat.
“Sometimes market visitors find the monkey cute and feed it as well. The monkey has become the market’s favorite attraction.
Wildlife officer Phuwanak Krumnoi, who helped retrieve the primate, said Godzilla was “severely obese” when he was discovered and needed to be put on a diet urgently.
Former owner Emsan was allowed to visit Godzilla while he was being treated, but authorities eventually planned to release him back into the woods, allowing him to interact with other apes.
Devastated, Emsan said at the time: ‘Godzilla is like a son to me. He is part of the family. He does not eat if he is not with us, he becomes sullen and sad. I’m afraid he won’t survive.
However, Changpirom said, “The monkey was handed over to the national park team to take care of him and prevent him from gaining more weight.
“We have to remind people that if they find a wild monkey they should never keep it. The right step is to call the local police and wait for the authorities to pick up the animal and provide it with the proper care.
Godzilla weighed nearly 19kg when he visited the Chachoengsao Wildlife Center in central Thailand, but managed to lose weight through a strict diet.
He was allowed to eat live crickets – which he chased around his enclosure – as well as dill, lettuce, birdworms, carrots, peanuts, long beans and sunflower seeds .
He dropped to 17.2kg after just a week in the camp, and staff aimed to reduce his weight to 10kg with a regimen of daily walks before releasing him back into the wild.
There have been no Godzilla health updates since 2021.
Thailand is home to hundreds of thousands of wild monkeys, including gibbons, macaques, langurs and lorises, which roam freely and are popular with tourists.