Another sure sign of summer being right around the corner is the wheeling out of the Monkey combat cage (actually Baboons). This activity, hugely popular in years past, has made a thrilling comeback over the last few summers. The concept is easy to grasp – two ‘trained to kill’ baboons are put in the glass cage where they fight to the death, or the until one animal’s owner/trainer throws in the towel and rescues his charge.
Much like the traditional cock or dogfight, bets are taken and, as odds are adjusted, piles of money change hands during the ebb and flow of the battle. A clever punter can do quite well on a beautiful summer’s evening. At the end of each match what’s left of the two combatants are whisked away (to hospital, to the morgue or to the kitchen) and a small child, hardly bigger than one of the monkeys, climbs into the cage to wash the windows. That the cleaner is wearing his/her pajamas adds a calming family folksiness to the event though sometimes the youngster doesn’t get to “hit the sack” until daybreak.
The most popular recent innovation was the ‘team competition’ concept in which pairs of baboons fight as a team to maul an opposing pair. Little colored caps cocked at a jaunty angle help viewers distinguish between the teams.
The “arena” is completely mobile so the matches can occur on any night tucked in some remote corner anywhere on the island and naturally out of sight of animal lovers. An added novelty is the availability of souvlaki (cooked meat on a skewer), the abundance of which increases as the night wears on.
The season culminates after the tax fraud police have left the island in September, when under the guise of a something more “normal”, the final bouts of the season are played out to a full house under starry skies at the packed to the rafters outdoor amphitheater of the Elementary school.
Word gets around about upcoming competitions and locations. If one is discrete, details can be obtained by asking anyone who appears to possibly be involved in the games (look for pinky rings) and asking, “Παρακαλώ κύριε, πού και πότε θα είναι το επόμενο διαγωνισμού μπαμπουίνους;”. Don’t be shy. The answer you receive might be cryptic but that’s all part of the fun.