Tag Archives: Hanuman

RED TAPE TANGLES INDIA’S MONKEYS (1958)

A legend of American journalism files one of the earliest dispatches from the monkey beat.

RED TAPE TANGLES INDIA’S MONKEYS

Policy Shift Strands 5,000 Animals at Airport on Way Abroad for Medical Use

by AM Rosenthal
New York Times
March 2, 1958

NEW DELHI: More than 5,000 small monkeys and two chartered planes have been grounded at New Delhi’s airport by Government red tape. It may be a break for the monkeys but it is driving the exporters frantic.

The animals represent an investment of more than $50,000. They were on their way to laboratories in the United States and Britain to be used in the production of Salk anti-polio-myelitis and other types of vaccines. India, a country where monkeys are almost as common a sight as pigeons at New York’s Forty-second Street library, is a vital supplier to the world’s laboratories.

But the fact is that the business of catching and shipping monkeys abroad has never been a popular one here. To tens of millions of Indians, monkeys, despite their mischievous marauding, deserve a special place of affection.

The monkey god, Hanuman, is one of the best-loved gods in the Hindu religion and there are temples to him all over the country. In the Hindu epic, the Ramayana, the monkey king Hanuman and his hordes helped the God Rama rescue his wife from the clutches of the demon god Ravana.

Despite the widespread public dislike for the export of monkeys, the Indian Government has recognized their importance in medical research and vaccine production. Licenses have been granted to a group of exporters to handle the business.

But the latest shipments of monkeys were stranded at Palam Airport just before they were scheduled to take off in special planes. The exporters were informed suddenly that monkeys weighing less than six pounds could not be sent abroad. Most of the monkeys awaiting shipment fell into that category.

The government said that monkeys less than six pounds were not useful for vaccine production and research purposes. The exporters denied this hotly.

According to the exporters, the foreign laboratories had specifically asked for small monkeys. As one put it: “Would I be spending hundreds of thousands of rupees in monkeys nobody wanted?”

The exporters are pressing the Government to changes its rule or at least permit the stranded monkeys to be sent. In the meantime, every monkey at Palam represents, to the exporters, a loss of $10 in catching and shipping charges and of $2 profit.

A staff member of the National Foundation for Infantile Paralysis said in New York his organization had been accepting monkeys weighing between four and eight pounds. The foundation imports about 100,000 monkeys a year for research and vaccine purposes, he said. Large monkeys are considered preferable for vaccine use because they yield more kidney tissue, he declared, but smaller monkeys are also used in research.

The Lederle Laboratories division of the American Cyanamid Company reporterd that its research unit had formerly used some Indian rhesus monkeys in the six-to-eight-pound range but now used Java monkeys averaging about four and one-half pounds.

Henry Trefflich, president of the Trefflich Bird and Animal Company, a large importer of animals for research, said he had been informed that shipments from India would now be limited to monkeys weighing six pounds or more and that they must be sent five or fewer to a crate. Previously, he said, three-to-eight-pound monkeys were shipped ten to a crate.

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SACRED AND SINISTER SIMIANS ROAM NEW DELHI’S STREETS (2001)

SACRED AND SINISTER SIMIANS ROAM NEW DELHI’S STREETS

by Paul Watson
Los Angeles Times
May 21, 2001

Demigods shouldn’t have to suffer the indignities that India’s monkeys do these days.

More than 5,000 monkeys roam the streets, and trees, of this capital city, and to the country’s Hindu majority, each one is sacred–although it’s getting harder to tell with so many Indians bad-mouthing them.

Monkeys may be the earthly legions of the Lord Hanuman, the monkey god, but they are also marauding gangs accused of stealing everything from food to sensitive government files, pulling off women’s clothing, and even killing people.

It’s all quite upsetting for one of India’s leading primatologists, Iqbal Malik, who blames humans–especially the species sitting behind government desks–for letting New Delhi’s monkeys get hooked on the good life.

“That is when gods become pests,” Malik, 49, said. “And that is when people begin thinking: ‘What to do with them? Kill them. Shoot them. Stone them.’ That starts an aggressive reaction [from the monkeys], a vicious circle.”

Relations between man and monkey got really bad in 1999, when the government hired men with trained langur monkeys to chase hundreds of slightly smaller rhesus monkeys away from government buildings, where they were sneaking into offices and pilfering Foreign Ministry files.

A year ago, a monkey was accused of killing a New Delhi resident by dropping a flowerpot on his head.

Things got worse last week, when rumors about a half-man, half- monkey attacking people in their sleep caused a panic among the poor of east Delhi’s crowded slums.

Newspapers and TV jumped at the chance to report on something more gripping than the usual fare of corrupt politicians, constant blackouts, various insurgencies and the 115-degree heat.

Drawings compared the police version of the monkey-man–a4-foot- 6 creature covered in dark hair–to witness descriptions that put him closer to 5-foot-6, with long steel claws, black clothes and a motorcycle helmet.

Because the monkey-man reportedly attacked only sleeping people in the dead of night, actual sightings were hard to come by. One man who claimed that he had looked the monkey-man straight in the eye said the beast immediately turned into a cat and ran away.

Leading Hindu nationalists insisted that the military intelligence agency in Pakistan had sent the monkey-man in a sinister plot to destabilize India. Several members of Parliament demanded that the government send in crack paramilitary units to catch the ape-man.

The normally staid Times of India joined in Wednesday with a front-page headline that screamed: “Monkeyman’s Reign of Terror in Capital Growing Daily.”

New Delhi’s police force has deployed 1,000 officers, many of them posted on rooftops, in a special operation to trap the monkey- man. Unofficially, police insist that he is just a figment of the imagination.

But officially, police spokesman Ravi Pawar said there is something more to it, because people are turning up with scratch marks.

“It’s a mischief-monger,” Pawar said. “We are sure to get him.” Police arrested more than a dozen pranksters calling in sightings of the monkey-man over the weekend and are offering a reward exceeding $1,000 for the capture of the monster–or the guy in the monkey suit.

So many residents are convinced that the monkey-man is real, at least two people have died trying to escape him: In the latest incident, a 21-year-old pregnant woman fell down a staircase to her death Tuesday night when a reported sighting of the monkey-man set off a stampede.

In a front-page analysis of the monkey-man phenomenon, the Hindustan Times suggested that it’s all about poor people fed up with daily blackouts lasting 10 hours and running water that’s on only an hour each day.

According to the rapidly developing lore, light wards off the monkey-man, and a splash of water on his chest drains his power to leap.

For years, government officials have done little to fix the supplies of electricity and water, but now that they are supposed weapons against the monkey-man, there suddenly is a steady supply of both throughout the night in the slums where the monkey-man is said to prowl.

Malik sees the roots of Delhi’s monkey craze in the ruin of India’s environment.

The trouble started in the late 1980s, when a combination of shrinking forests, water shortages and the illegal trapping of wild primates for medical research set off a steady migration of monkeys to the city.

Twenty years ago, only 30% of India’s monkeys lived among people in cities, Malik said. The number is closer to 60% today, she said. New Delhi’s rhesus monkey population quickly climbed past the sustainable level of about 2,000.

The monkey god, Hanuman, is one of the most important deities in the Hindu pantheon, and devout Hindus often feed monkeys in the belief that the animals will give them good luck, heal the sick or help overcome any obstacle.

Although an adult monkey has the intelligence of a 2-year-old human, the animals are smart enough to know a good thing when they see it. So they take up permanent residence in the city and, before long, start to push their luck.

“They all want to climb the social hierarchy,” Malik said. “One way is to show to peers they are smarter, or can do things other monkeys can’t do–like pulling off a [woman’s] sari. It’s just showing off.”

Shyam Nath, an ex-tailor now in the monkey management business, used his gray-and-black langur monkey, Raju, and a cane, to scare off about 500 monkeys that were running amok in a government complex. Now he hopes for a call to take on the monkey-man of east Delhi.

“If he’s a monkey, I’m ready for him,” Nath said, as Raju chewed on a leathery fistful of leaves.

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AND GOD SAID, LET THERE BE MONKEYS (1998)

AND GOD SAID, LET THERE BE MONKEYS

by Pamela Constable
Washington Post
September 21, 1998

If you arrive at the Tughluqabad ruins even one minute after sunrise, you’re too late. Group leaders Hukka Singh and Ram Singh have already moved their troops out of the 13th-century fort and headed to a nearby military shooting range for breakfast.

The drill continues all day, with scheduled stops at various roadside banana stands and markets. Then, precisely at dusk, the group of wild rhesus monkeys lopes back to the ruins, scrambles up the parapets and starts settling down for the night amid the crumbling 700-year-old tombstones of King Ghiyas-ud-Din Tughluq and his family.

The monkeys of Tughluqabad are among the last of a breed that once roamed India’s forests by the millions. For much of this century, they were voraciously hunted and trapped for export, while their habitats were squeezed by urbanization. By 1983, according to animal activists, there were fewer than 200,000 left.

Today, despite a 1978 ban on exporting monkeys, thousands are still trapped each year for domestic medical and commercial research. They are widely used to test eye shadow and lipstick, rabies vaccines and birth control pills, as well as chemicals.

Yet many Indians revere the monkeys, and dozens of devotees come each day to Tughluqabad, just east of the old section of the capital, New Delhi, to feed the monkeys bread, nuts and bananas.

The visitors are worshipers of Hanuman, the Hindu monkey god who is believed to bring strength and good luck. In the Ramayana, one of Hinduism’s great epics, Hanuman lifted a mountain to find a special herb that could save the life of his master, the god Rama.

“I come here for peace of mind,” said Ashook Jain, 38, a school principal who has been feeding the monkeys every day for 15 years. As he approached the ruins at dawn one recent day, he called out loudly, “Ough, ough,” and a dozen monkeys bounded down the walls. “These are bad times in India, and we need to have a powerful god on our side,” Jain said.

Just down the road, three men hopped off a motor scooter and began throwing bananas to another group of monkeys. They said they work in a shoe shop and make offerings on days when they are facing unusual business problems.

“Everyone has their favorite god, and the monkeys were our ancestors, too,” said the shop manager, Umesh Kumar, 23, as a chittering pack eagerly surrounded the scooter.

The Tughluqabad monkeys have full-time protectors, watchmen who sleep in the ruins and make sure no one harms them. They also have an influential champion in Iqbal Malik, a primatologist who spent years studying them. Often she took her son Vijay along, raising him, she said, “like a monkey mother, with lots of body contact but an instinctive sense of how much freedom to allow.”

Today Malik, 40, devotes most of her time to promoting animal rights, and she has arranged for thousands of urban monkeys to return and readapt to forest life. She also acknowledges that the monkeys can become a nuisance in densely populated areas.

“They get so used to being fed that they become aggressive. If you don’t feed them they will invade your house, raid your fridge, turn on your water tap,” she said. “If you try to kick them out, they may tear your clothes. They are extremely strong.”

They are also territorial. The five bands of Tughluqabad, totaling about 300 monkeys, have separate feeding areas and sleeping places. Within each band, members are highly sociable and respectful of rank, yet males often fight over food, choice sleeping places and females who defect to rival bands.

The monkeys also are spoiled rotten. On Tuesdays and Saturdays, which Hindu devotees say are auspicious times for making offerings to Hanuman, the Tughluqabad monkeys have been fed so many bananas and nuts by morning that they usually vanish to spend the rest of the day snoozing in the trees around the ruins.

“There is no point coming here those days,” cautioned Nanak Chand, a former watchman at Tughluqabad who used to sleep with monkeys curled around him and often returns to visit. “They won’t even bother to come down.”

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THE MONKEY ON A NATION’S BACK (1998)

Mr Bedi goes for five. See also: “India’s Marauding Monkeys” (1993); “Romeo’s Monkey Business Drives Nurses Bananas” (1994); “Monkeys Mock Democracy” (1996); and “Monkeys Go To Jail” (1997).

THE MONKEY ON A NATION’S BACK

by Rahul Bedi
The Australian
March 26, 1998

NEW DELHI: A pack of alcoholic monkeys create havoc on a daily basis in the Excise Department laboratory in New Delhi, guzzling liquor samples brought in for testing and going berserk when denied their daily drink quota.

Excise officials said that despite security, the pack of seven monkeys who have lived near the laboratory for years manage to get inside and get drunk on hundreds of liquor samples.

More than 100 police stations send moonshine seized from bootleggers to be tested at the laboratory, which also services scores of drug companies that send samples of alcohol-based substances used in medicines.

“Each monkey must have drunk hundreds of bottles by now,” a laboratory official said.

He said the monkeys became violent when unable to get a drink and moved into the office complex, ransacking and destroying everything in sight.

All attempts to deal effectively with menacing monkeys here and in several other places across India is hampered by the reverence with which they are held by Hindus, India’s majority community.

Hindu religious sentiment associates monkeys with Hanuman, the monkey god who was Lord Rama’s fearless and loyal assistant in his battle against Ravana, the evil god king of Sri Lanka .

There are thousands of Hanuman temples across India and every Tuesday is reserved for the worship of him.

Meanwhile, wildlife authorities in Patiala, a northern town in Punjab State, some 322km north of Delhi, where monkey business is rampant, have come up with a special jail for “criminal simians” who are incarcerated for varying periods before being declared “fit” enough to be “released” back into society.

There are an estimated 50,000 monkeys in Punjab, almost all wild, the largest number being in Patiala district. Their numbers have increased after monkey exports were banned in the late 1980s.

Led by ringleaders, usually the biggest and most vicious of the pack, monkey gangs chalk out their patch in crowded neighbourhoods across the State and terrorise everyone around.

Monkeys also menace Delhi’s corridors of power and spread mayhem on the campus of the nearby All India Institute of Medical Sciences, India’s flagship research institution.

Officials walk warily down passageways in the north and south blocks of the Indian government buildings — housing, among others, the prime minister’s office — looking apprehensively over their shoulders for fear of being set upon by marauding monkeys hiding in niches.

The animals chase doctors and nurses at the Institute of Medical Sciences and patients in post-operative wards sometimes surface from anaesthesia only to be greeted by grinning monkeys in their beds.

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MONKEYS MOCK DEMOCRACY (1996)

MONKEYS MOCK DEMOCRACY

by Rahul Bedi
South China Morning Post
March 22, 1996

An Indian security agency has been assigned an unusual, though formidable, task — ridding the New Delhi Election Commission of monkeys whose maraudings have delayed preparations for next month’s elections.

Officials said the building at Kashmere Gate has been vandalised by monkeys who tore out electrical fittings and damaged furniture.

“We are apprehensive they might damage valuable election material like electoral rolls, ballot papers, ink and stamps,” said an official.

The security agency, meanwhile, is considering using special stun-guns to immobilise, trap and relocate the monkeys.

Monkeys are holy for India’s majority Hindu community, which associates them with Hanuman, the mythical monkey-god. One of the biggest Hanuman temples is next to the Election Commission offices.

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ROMEO’S MONKEY BUSINESS DRIVES NURSES BANANAS (1994)

ROMEO’S MONKEY BUSINESS DRIVES NURSES BANANAS

by Rahul Bedi
South China Morning Post
April 2, 1994

NEW DELHI: A male monkey, christened Romeo because of his fondness for female nurses and patients, has struck terror into a north Indian hospital.

Victims of Romeo’s “passionate” attacks at SMGS hospital in Jammu say he makes his advances only when he sees a lone female.

When rebuffed, Romeo becomes enraged and bites his victims, who then need rabies vaccinations.

Among Romeo’s recent victims was a 10-year-old girl visiting the hospital, but he seems to prefer the nurses. He has bitten at least six over the past three months, waiting patiently for them in dark corridors before attacking.

Hospital security staff have tried to trap the monkey, who lives somewhere on the sprawling hospital campus, by offering him bananas laced with sedatives.

Romeo, however, has outwitted them so far, eating the “loaded” bananas and making off to his secret lair to sleep them off.

Hospital staff say they cannot shoot or kill Romeo because of the strong religious sentiments aroused whenever any serious plans are afoot to eliminate him.

Hindus associate monkeys with Hanuman, the mythical monkey god, among the most revered of Hindu gods. Hanuman is worshipped in thousands of temples dedicated to him across India, and his spirit is believed to live inside all monkeys.

Patients consider it propitious to feed a monkey, hoping Hanuman will hasten recovery. Even the suggestion of killing one fills them with dread.

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POLICE END ROMEO’S MONKEY BUSINESS (1994)

POLICE END ROMEO’S MONKEY BUSINESS

by Tim McGirk
The Independent
May 28, 1994

NEW DELHI: It was inevitable the Indian press would call the monkey Romeo, even though his intentions towards women were more menacing than amorous, writes Tim McGirk.

The animal would swing into the wards at the SMGS hospital in Jammu, a town in north-western India, biting and pinching helpless female patients.

He also developed a taste for nurses. But the cowardly Romeo would never attack men.

The monkey is considered a sacred creature by many Hindus, and this Romeo was allowed to swagger around the hospital as he pleased. Even in the capital, New Delhi, at the prestigious All-India Institute for Medical Sciences, staff have suffered invasions of monkeys, scampering through wards and ripping the intravenous drips out of patients’ arms.

But finally, after Romeo had injured more than 60 women and children over the past few months, the hospital staff’s tolerance snapped. They went on strike.

Faced with the hospital’s closure, the authorites on 11 May issued shoot-to-kill orders against the furry female chaser. But killing Romeo was not easy. Animal lovers and followers of the monkey-faced Hindu god, Hanuman, sabotaged attempts by the police to get a clear shot at Romeo. And, sensing that the mood in the hospital had swung against him from reverential to hostile, Romeo clambered off to blend in with a troop of other monkeys.

Romeo was safe until his lecherous urges got the better of him. He abandoned his fellow monkeys and slipped back into town to assault a woman on Wednesday. Witnesses immediately rang the police, who gave chase. Forty-five minutes later he was cornered on a window ledge and killed with a shotgun blast.

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SHAKING THE MONKEY OFF THEIR BACKS (1993)

SHAKING THE MONKEY OFF THEIR BACKS

by Chris Lefkow
Herald Sun (Australia)
December 30, 1993

NEW DELHI: Iqbal Malik is determined to put an end to the monkey business going on within the Indian Government. The soft-spoken 35-year-old woman is not a corruption-buster, however, but a zoologist with a plan to rid government offices of file-shredding and food-snatching monkeys.

Monkeys, which are sacred to India’s Hindus, have taken over the grounds of a number of downtown buildings, and Ms Malik, who earned a doctorate in animal behavior from Delhi University, has been called in to help repel the invasion.

The simians can be seen frolicking on the lawns of South Block, where the Foreign Ministry and Prime Minister’s office are located, grooming one another on window ledges or badgering passers-by for handouts.

They have also been spotted climbing the walls of the presidential palace and raiding fruit trees in the palace nursery.

Ms Malik says about 5000 monkeys have taken up residence in the Indian capital, living in groups of six to more than 20.

She blames widespread trapping of monkeys for export and experimentation during the 1960s and 1970s for pushing them out of their natural habitat and into the cities.

The monkeys living in downtown New Delhi are indeed a pampered bunch, fed regularly by office workers with bananas, apples, nuts and the remains of picnic lunches.

The monkeys are revered by Hindus as the avatar of the monkey-faced god Hanuman, a hero of the Ramayana epic.

“They’re considered as gods,” said Ms Malik. “But gods become pests in a very short span of time.”

“They pull your clothes and demand food. Many offices have broken windows, so they enter. They tear files, they look into files, like spies. They’re very curious.” Low-voltage electric fencing, shrubbery with thorns, chemical repellants, sterilisation and guard dogs are among the recommendations Ms Malik has made to caretakers trying to make official buildings “monkey-proof”.

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COMING TO GRIPS WITH ALL THIS MONKEY BUSINESS (1990)

COMING TO GRIPS WITH ALL THIS MONKEY BUSINESS

by Tim McGirk
The Independent
November 24, 1990

NEW DELHI: One of the first visitors to The Independent’s India bureau swung in from a tree. He was a large red-faced monkey. He strolled around the room, saw there was nothing to eat and came out on to the veranda where I was sitting with the previous tenant, a Czechoslovak nurse. “Ah, yes, I almost forgot about the monkey,” she said nonchalantly, as it ambled over to our table. He was larger than my six-year-old boy and had fleas. “He likes to pee from the top of the stairs and watch it go cascading down,” the Czechoslovak, told my wife and me.

“Whatever you do,” advised my wife, “don’t smile at the monkey. He’ll think you’re baring your teeth at him. Act of aggression.”

“I wasn’t smiling,” I retorted. In fact, I was scheming how to rid myself of the monkey. It wouldn’t do to have visiting ambassadors and politicians hosed down with monkey urine. After that, I began noticing monkey stories in the newspapers. Monkeys pelting schoolchildren with stones; monkeys splashing in the swimming pool of a five-star hotel; and a troop of monkeys invading a hospital ward.

My first plan was to scare away the monkey. During the Hindu Diwali festival I bought a rocket so powerful that Saddam Hussein could have altered the balance of power in the Gulf with it. I fired the rocket straight into the garden tree from where the monkey had first arrived.

What if he came back? The monkey would no doubt consider that shooting a firework at him was an even more blatant act of aggression than smiling. I rang the Delhi Municipal Corporation and asked if they had a monkey catcher. Friends had told me that snared monkeys were released at the temples in the countryside, where they had a fine time stuffing themselves with offerings of bananas. But, inexplicably, the city authorities referred me to the Animal Research Centre at a medical teaching college. So I rang. “Is your home now being monkey molested?” a voice asked eagerly. “Not really. I’m a journalist.” When I said “journalist”, the telephone went dead. The Animal Research Centre was beginning to sound ominous.

My assistant, Benny, and I went to the Animal Research Centre to scout around. In the hallway there was a board listing the day’s experimental victims: rabbits, mice, guinea-pigs and . . . donkeys. Donkeys? Benny went out to the animal pens and could not find any donkeys. But he did find hundreds of caged monkeys. Some had had limbs amputated; others had been surgically tampered with: their heads and torsos were crudely stitched back together. These hacked-up monkeys were shunned by the others in the cages. I asked the research centre’s deputy director about his monkeys. “What monkeys? We haven’t got any monkeys,” he said. “Well, show me your donkeys, then.” He showed me to the door.

Later a zoologist, Iqbal Malik, who has been studying Delhi’s urban population of 5,000 monkeys, told me that the Hindus consider monkeys to be special beings, ranking with snakes and elephants. That’s because Hanuman, the monkey king, helped Lord Rama to get his kidnapped bride, Sita, back from the Demon King of Lanka. “If people found out that monkeys were being cut up for scientific experiments,” she said, “there would be a terrific uproar. That’s why the medical schools never admit to it.” She showed me a photo of a Muslim monkey catcher. He was dressed as a woman, in a bright sari. “Women appear less threatening to monkeys than men,” said Dr Malik.

I asked her why a large male monkey wanted to come and pee all over my stairway. It had occurred to me that perhaps this was the monkey’s way of marking off territory; any day I expected it to return with a troop of 50 fellow beasts. She assured me that this monkey was a loner.

“He’s probably quarrelled with the chief monkey, the alpha male, and lost his place in the hierarchy,” she said. “He’s been deprived of the best females, food and space, so he left.” I was starting to feel sorry about using the rocket.

At nightfall I drove to Tughlakabad, the ruins of a fortified 14th-century city the high stone walls of which had withstood everything but the curse of a Sufi saint. Only monkeys and owls would ever live in Tughlakabad, the Muslim mystic had predicted, and he was correct. It was too early for owls when I arrived but a Sikh on a Vespa stopped and walked up to the base of the fortress wall, tossing bananas on the ground. The monkeys came, cart-wheeling and swinging down the ancient wall.

I’m sure the monkeys would have recognised the smile on the Sikh’s face as a smile.

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TAILED TERRORISTS IN NEW DELHI (1987)

‘TAILED TERRORISTS’ IN NEW DELHI: GANGS OF MONKEYS RUNNING AMOK

by Rone Tempest
Los Angeles Times
December 5, 1987

NEW DELHI: Donna Hughes and her 2-year-old son were driving contentedly down a major New Delhi avenue recently singing one of their favorite nursery rhymes:

Bah, bah, black sheep, have you any wool? …

The 27-year-old woman, an aquatics instructor and wife of a Canadian diplomat here, slowed the car as it approached an intersection. Suddenly something burst in the open driver’s-seat window and began ripping her hair. She instinctively clutched the steering wheel for protection.

“The natural impulse is not to look but to protect your face,” she recalled. She had been in India only a few weeks and had no idea what it could be that was hissing and spitting and scratching her neck.

When she finally summoned the courage to face her attacker, she was looking directly into the dull watery brown eyes of a raging rhesus macaca mulatta monkey. “His head was as big as mine and he was spitting and baring his teeth,” she recalled.

As Donna Hughes discovered, New Delhi has a monkey problem. In some cases, the monkeys that run wild here pose a serious safety hazard. Of course, sometimes, when they steal lunch boxes from school children or bathe in roof-top water tanks, they just stir up too much monkey business.

Increasingly, however, the 5 million residents of the Indian capital are not amused. “Simian Terror Plagues Capital,” blared a headline in the Times of India newspaper.

“Gangs of monkeys . . . reinforced by fresh groups from neighboring areas . . . have been causing havoc,” the report stated.

Letters-to-the-editor columns of the newspapers regularly feature anti-monkey letters from readers.

“Monkeys have become a major nuisance in the capital,” wrote Indraneel Banerjee, 51, in The Statesman newspaper. “They raid houses and carry away fruit, vegetables, eggs and anything else they like. Even medicines and sleeping pills are known to be lifted.”

Even pro-monkey lobbyists such a Dr. Iqbal Malik, a primatologist at Delhi University who has conducted a seven-year study of a monkey colony in the suburban Tughlakabad Fort area, admit that things have gotten out of hand in the densely populated inner city.

“There is a constant competition between human beings and monkeys for shelter and food,” she said.

In a strange case of reverse-Darwinism, monkeys have reengaged the humans for primacy, only this time on the humans’ home turf. There are those who think the monkeys are winning. Wrote Indraneel Banerjee, “It is difficult to take on these devils, as they come in groups.”

The city — both the ancient walled section and the new capital area — has always had colonies of the agile, big-eared, brown rhesus monkeys.

Monkeys are adored by India’s majority Hindu population, who see them as the descendants of the great monkey god Hanuman who helped Rama defeat demon armies in the Hindu epic Ramayana.

Every day, even along walks surrounding the office of Indian Prime Minister Rajiv Gandhi, Hindus — their faces glowing with beatific smiles — can be seen feeding bags of bananas and nuts to New Delhi’s monkeys.

Until 10 years ago, however, the religious love of the monkeys was kept in a kind of ecological balance by the value of monkeys on the world market, where they were used extensively in scientific laboratories.

In fact, India was once the main exporter of the animal to Western researchers.

However, a 1978 law passed by Parliament under pressure from religious organizations and naturalists banned the export of monkeys. Since then, according to Dr. Malik, their population has tripled in the city. She estimates that as many as 5,000 monkeys now live in the capital.

Malik’s own study colony in the Tughlakabad Fort area has increased in eight years from 150 to 500 animals. Not only are the capital’s monkeys naturally prolific, but they are social animals and rove the streets in troupes of up to 100 monkeys each.

During evening rush hour when people are most likely to feed them scraps of food, they swarm over the majestic red sandstone government buildings designed in the Indo-Saracenic style by British architect Edward Lutyens. At twilight, it is as though the jungle had retreated and the Cambodian ruins of Angkor Wat have come alive again, complete with monkeys silhouetted on the skyline and thousands of people pouring from the doors.

Possibly because of religious sensitivities, the New Delhi municipal corporation has made only a token effort to combat the monkey menace. The city has one monkey catcher, a well-known local character named Attar Singh, 35, who claims to have captured 100,000 monkeys in his long career.

For every monkey he captures, usually luring the creature with food, Singh gets 95 rupees ($8) from the city. By Indian standards, he makes a good living on 20 monkeys a month, he said.

“A monkey is an equal adversary,” he told the Associated Press. “I have to confront them like an enemy. It is an art to trap them.” He said that after he captures the monkeys, he releases them in the wild miles outside of Delhi.

Dr. Malik, in letters to Prime Minister Gandhi and Parliament, where her husband is a sitting member, contends that Singh breaks up monkey social groups and often separates infants from their mothers.

“I have observed cases of death from clinical depression,” she said, who advocates capturing whole packs of monkeys and moving them en masse to a suitable rural location.

Some monkeys, however, should be allowed to remain in the city, she argues. “There should be a peaceful coexistence between the monkeys and the people,” she said.

In some instances, however, peaceful coexistence is not easy.

John Hampton is a diplomat with the U.S. Embassy in New Delhi. He and his wife, Janet, both from Ohio, longed for the sweet corn from home that is not available in India.

They decided to grow corn in rooftop boxes at their home, located near a park where there is a large monkey population.

“We bought a Silver Queen variety imported hybrid,” Janet Hampton recalled wistfully. “We carried the boxes to the roof. We planted. We nurtured. We fertilized and we began our countdown.

“On the day we decided it was ripe we went to the roof, and monkeys had swung in from the woods and were having a feast.” She said at first she and her husband attempted to frighten the monkeys away with sticks but “they just bared their teeth and made it clear it was their corn.”

In the case of Donna Hughes, who was attacked by a monkey in a car not too far from the scene of the Hampton corn massacre, there was little permanent damage.

She jumped from the car. The monkey followed her and ran up a tree.

Fortunately, her son was more amused than frightened.

And after receiving five rabies shots for the open cuts on her neck where the monkey scratched or bit her (the doctor could not determine which), Donna Hughes is able to smile about the incident.

“It just brought things back into perspective for me,” she said over coffee in her New Delhi home. “It was a reminder that we are living in India. We are not living in Canada or the United States where we can drive along with the window open and be sure nothing will come jumping in.

“I don’t drive around with my window down here anymore.”

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MONKEYS DRIVE THEM ALL NUTS (1986)

MONKEYS DRIVE THEM ALL NUTS

by D Anderson
The Daily Telegraph (Australia)
November 10, 1986

NEW DELHI: The authorities in the Himalayan foothills, where the British established their Indian summer capital at Simla during the Raj, have been forced to tackle some serious monkey business.

An extraordinary plan is now being prepared to trap and capture vicious mountain monkeys, which have begun to attack children and tourists in Simla.

The scheme is being handled at the political level in Simla, the capital of Himachal Pradesh state, after the bureaucracy rejected it as a “futile and dangerous” task which could even lead to death for anyone brave, or foolish, enough to try and catch the animals.

The crunch came in May when a male monkey attacked a school, bit 45 children, one fatally, and forced a virtual state of emergency.

The fatality served to make up the minds of the authorities.

On August 10 they decided to hire monkey-catchers from the desert state of Rajasthan to snare the animals at a price of $1 each and send them to areas uninhabited by human beings.

“We cannot kill them because the Indian Wildlife Act prohibits it,” Simla’s mayor, Adarsh Kumar, said.

More than 2000 monkey attacks causing injury and shock are reported in Simla annually, according to medical authorities.

The government says it is determined to go ahead with the scheme despite protests from the bureaucracy and fears of Hindu protests.

The monkey is revered by Hindus as a symbol of Hanuman, the monkey god.

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