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”.