A small monkey brought Kenya’s electrical infrastructure to its knees for more than three hours on Tuesday with a nationwide blackout.
The Kenya Electricity Generating Co. explained the monkey was climbing on a roof at the Gitaru Power Station when it dropped onto a transformer and tripped it. That set off a chain reaction, according to the company’s statement: “This caused other machines at the power station to trip on overload resulting in a loss of more than 180 MW from this plant which triggered a national power blackout.”
The monkey survived the ordeal and has been turned over to the Kenyan Wildlife Service, KenGen said.
Gitaru is the “largest hydropower station in East Africa,” according to Business Daily Africa.
The news site adds that “businesses bore the brunt of the outage.” As Reuters reports, “Kenyan businesses regularly complain that power cuts — due to its aging grid — and unreliable supplies make them uncompetitive and hurt growth.”
In its statement, KenGen called the monkey business an “isolated incident.” It added that its power installations “are secured by electric fencing which keeps away marauding wild animals.” Now, the company says it is “looking at ways of further enhancing security at all our power plants.”
The offending primate appeared to be a vervet monkey in a photo published on KenGen’s Facebook page. If it is indeed a vervet monkey, as The Washington Post notes, “it would not be the first of its species accused of wreaking havoc in the country.”
A 2007 BBC article (with the headline “Monkey misery for Kenyan women villagers”) describes a pack of nearly 300 vervet monkeys descending on the village of Nachu, destroying crops and making “sexually explicit gestures” at local women.