Planet of the mon­keys hits In­dia

The Washington Times Weekly - - Page Two -

NEW DELHI, Nov 13 (Reuters) — First it was the death of Delhi’s deputy mayor, who fell af­ter a fight with mon­keys on the bal­cony of his home last month.

Then, 25 res­i­dents were bit­ten, scratched and mauled by a lone mon­key which went on the ram­page in the cap­i­tal over the Nov. 10-11 week­end.

The mon­key re­port­edly tried to snatch sev­eral in­fants be­fore be­ing beaten back by res­i­dents armed with sticks and metal bars. “Pri­mal In­va­sion” read the head­line in the Hin­dus­tan Times.

Au­thor­i­ties are strug­gling to con­tain pri­mates that are stub­bornly re­sist­ing ef­forts to por­tray New Delhi as a mod­ern, clean and glob­al­ized cap­i­tal.

The city of 14 mil­lion peo­ple is grow­ing quickly and ex­perts say mon­keys are in­creas­ingly be­ing forced out of forests to lead ur­ban lives, putting them on a col­li­sion course with hu­mans.

It is a pat­tern seen across In­dia as the econ­omy booms. Ele­phants, leop­ards and tigers are also com­ing face to face with man as cities sprawl into their for­mer habi­tats.

Mon­keys are a reg­u­lar sight in New Delhi. They can be seen in groups climb­ing out­side gov­ern­ment min­istries. Troupes lounge on pave­ments, obliv­i­ous to the chaotic traf­fic around them.

But culling mon­keys has never been an op­tion as many Hin­dus wor­ship the mon­key god Hanu­man, seen as a sym­bol of strength, per­se­ver­ance and de­vo­tion. And when Delhi tried to shift them out of the city, neigh­bor­ing states com­plained.

Faced with what many saw as a mon­key plague on homes, of­fices and min­istries, this year city au­thor­i­ties started to cap­ture and send them to a sanc­tu­ary on Delhi’s out­skirts.

Delhi gov­ern­ment of­fi­cials say they have caught and re­lo­cated around 1,900 mon­keys. While there is no cen­sus of mon­key num­bers, of­fi­cials say thou­sands still live on the city’s streets.

But a spate of high-profile mon­key at­tacks has made head­lines and in­creased pub­lic pres­sure for the gov­ern­ment to act quicker.

“The latest at­tack was un­prece­dented,” said J.K. Dadoo, en­vi­ron­ment and for­est sec­re­tary in the Delhi gov­ern­ment. “Mon­keys nor­mally op­er­ate in groups.”

Ex­perts say there is a grow­ing pat­tern of lone at­tacks that may high­light the ran­dom way au­thor­i­ties are try­ing to re­duce the mon- key pop­u­la­tion in the city.

“In­ci­dents of lone mon­key at­tacks were al­most un­known un­til re­cently,” said Sonya Ghose, founder of Cit­i­zens for the Wel­fare and Pro­tec­tion of An­i­mals and a mem­ber of an en­force­ment panel over­see­ing the mon­key re­lo­ca­tion cam­paign.

“I fear that mon­keys are be­ing trapped in a hap­haz­ard man­ner. Mon­key catch­ers are break­ing up troupes of mon­key fam­i­lies, leav­ing some mon­keys alone with­out their fam­i­lies.”

“Then they have noth­ing to lose and turn ag­gres­sive.”

Last year, the Delhi Metro train ser­vice hired a larger lan­gur mon­key to frighten off smaller crea­tures af­ter a mon­key boarded a train and scared pas­sen­gers by scowl­ing at them for three stops.

An­other lan­gur is on the gov­ern­ment pay­roll to scare off mon­keys from Delhi’s top fed­eral gov­ern­ment of­fices.

This year, a mon­key sneaked into New Delhi’s in­ter­na­tional air- port, forc­ing the par­tial clo­sure of the lounge for more than an hour as it scam­pered through the in­ter­na­tional de­par­tures area.

Dadoo said the prob­lem was that some peo­ple fed mon­keys on Tues­days and Satur­days, seen as aus­pi­cious days for the an­i­mals.

“That is when we have most cases of mon­key at­tacks, when peo­ple try to feed them,” he said.

Ghose said she sus­pected mon­key catch­ers — of­ten vil­lagers from out­side Delhi who are paid 450 ru­pees ($11.5) a mon­key — some­times snatched mon­keys in nearby forests and claimed they were caught in the city.

The Delhi res­i­dents ter­ror­ized over the Nov. 10-11 week­end said the mon­key at­tack was a ter­ri­fy­ing ex­pe­ri­ence.

“I thought it was a man at first,” Manohar, one of the res­i­dents, was quoted as say­ing in the Times of In­dia.

“It got hold of my son’s leg and was car­ry­ing him away but I man­aged to snatch him back.”

Agence France-Presse / Getty Images

In­dian men rest in a park as a group of mon­keys pass by in New Delhi on Nov. 12. Just weeks af­ter the In­dian cap­i­tal’s deputy mayor top­pled to his death fend­ing off a pack of mon­keys, the an­i­mals have gone back on the at­tack, spark­ing fresh con­cerns about the simian men­ace.

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