Delhi has a monkeys problem but Hindu faith rules out gorilla warfare
by Jo Johnson / November 11 2006
“For Delhi, finding a home for hundreds of Rhesus macaques that have been rounded up in snatch raids across the Indian capital is proving a real difficulty. Overcrowding at a special monkey prison at Rajokari on the outskirts of the city is causing headaches for the authorities, which are under pressure to comply with a 2004 Supreme Court order requiring the city to be monkey-free. The state of Madhya Pradesh this week filed an objection to a court order requiring it to take a shipment of 300 Delhi monkeys, arguing that they would destroy habitats, run amok in villages and spread diseases among humans. An earlier batch of 250 Delhi monkeys released in the forest of Palpur Kuno near Gwalior had been “creating problems” for locals and had upset the ecological balance of their new habitat by eating birds’ eggs, the state government said. Last month Himachal Pradesh turned down monkey shipments and four other states may follow suit, which might force Delhi to use its meagre resources for infrastructure development in the form of building more monkey prisons.
Man-monkey conflict is intensifying, with an estimated 100 people a day being bitten across the country. Extermination drives are not a serious option because of the popularity among many Hindus of Hanuman, a deity with simian features. Since India banned the export of monkeys for medical experimentation in 1978, its Rhesus macaque population has soared from 200,000 to over 500,000 in 1999, with more than half of them living in human habitations. Environmentalists say the problem is not the rising number of monkeys but the increase in the urban population and its encroachment on forest land. Delhi’s human population increased by 50 per cent to 13.8m between 1991 and 2001. “There is an increase in man-monkey conflicts and in the absence of a management plan of both forests and commensal monkeys, the problem of man-monkey conflict is only going to increase,” says Dr Ikbal Malik, a primatologist. “Building more monkey prisons would not be the answer at all. The construction of the cage was one of many many things that the government has done wrong. We need monkey sanctuaries across the country.”
Before the export ban India used to ship tens of thousands of Rhesus monkeys to the west for all types of research by pharmaceutical and biomedical companies, as well as by government-run military, space and nuclear research institutes. Since 1978, trapping of forest monkeys has continued for research within India. Dr Malik says research has shown that haphazard trapping leads to “chaotic fissioning” of their groups and to their dispersal into human habitations. Most government offices in Delhi have opted for a direct approach. Although keeping leashed monkeys is illegal, many have chained langurs, an aggressive species of monkey that is used to scare away the Rhesus.”
by Kim Barker / 11/12/2004
“…This jail is Punjab state’s answer to the monkey menace in India, where killing monkeys is forbidden. Hindus consider monkeys sacred, living representatives of the monkey god Hanuman. Thousands of temples are dedicated to Hanuman, and many people feed monkeys in the hopes of divine rewards. Monkeys have invaded government ministries in New Delhi, ridden elevators and climbed along windowsills. Monkeys slapped students inside a girls school in a south Bengal suburb. A gang of monkeys in the city of Chandigarh ripped up lawns, broke flowerpots and yanked sheets off beds. Some monkeys, mostly loners, have bitten people, injuring and even killing small children. “Monkeys are very furious,” said Ujagar Singh, the Patiala district spokesman. “They are dangerous animals.” Officials have tried many tactics to fight the monkeys, mostly of the pink-faced rhesus variety. They have told people to stop feeding the animals. They have given monkeys an herbal contraceptive mixed in with cashew nuts. Hundreds of troublesome monkeys have been sent to wildlife sanctuaries. Last fall, the Supreme Court even decreed that New Delhi should be monkey-free.
But nothing has really worked, not the court order, not loud music, not patrols of government buildings by leashed larger primates called langurs. Every few months, news of a fresh monkey panic is reported somewhere in India. Occasionally, people get fed up. Late last month, 59 dead monkeys were found, dumped in sacks along the road in Haryana state. The monkey jail in Patiala, about 125 miles north of New Delhi in Punjab state, is in a corner of the zoo called Deer Park of Motibagh forest. In this vast country, someone else might have opened a monkey jail, but if so, officials do not know about it. The Patiala jail is more like a single cell, about 15 feet wide, 15 feet deep and 12 feet high, with bars, chain-link fencing and wire mesh. A sign in front says: “These monkeys have been caught from various cities of Punjab. They are notorious. Going near them is dangerous.”
None of these monkeys killed anyone. They’re all basically thieves and pests. The first inmate was arrested in 1996, in the village of Sanam, after biting people as they shopped in a vegetable market. Other monkeys stole clothes from nursing students and purses from women in an education administration office. One monkey stalked a housing complex in the Jalandhar district, stealing kids’ lunchboxes and opening water tanks, where he drank the water, bathed and defecated. Two monkeys were picked up from the chief minister’s house, basically for loitering. “It only takes one monkey,” said P.C. Atalia, the divisional wildlife officer in the Patiala district. “The rumors spread from one house to another, and soon there’s a panic. The way the rumors heat up, you stop your kids from going to school, you lock all your doors.” The monkeys are captured with trapping cages and tranquilizer guns. Once put in jail, they are not given names. Instead, jailers refer to them by where they were caught: Sanam Monkey or Jalandhar Monkey. “They are so notorious, why should we give them a name?” Atalia said. “They don’t listen anyway,” added Surinder Singh, who is in charge of the Motibagh zoo.
There’s no chance of parole for the monkeys, officials said. If any were released, there would be too much negative publicity, not to mention the possibility of mass hysteria. The jail is dark. It smells rank, like concentrated monkey. The walls are stained, and the floor is covered with peanut shells and black peas. Ten monkeys live here now, the three newer ones still in isolation cages. Some monkeys sit slumped against the wall, occasionally picking up a peanut. Others pace. Urban State College Monkey stares at the ground. Mohali Monkey jumps from the floor to a high ledge in the back of the room, the only entertainment available. Sanam Monkey, locked up now for 8 years, grabs the cell bars and occasionally grunts. This place angers people such as Maneka Gandhi, an animal-rights activist who is also the daughter-in-law of former Indian Prime Minister Indira Gandhi. She said monkeys can be rehabilitated, taught in sanctuaries to live in groups and eventually released into the forest. “You can’t treat them in the same way as humans, as bad and good,” she said. “You can’t just jail them.”
The newest inmate at Patiala, trapped in a cage on Monday, is called Ayurvedic College Monkey, named after the healing-arts school near where it was captured. On Tuesday, a local newspaper ran a photograph of the monkey, crouching in front of his captors. The caption proclaimed: “Team of forest and wildlife officials catching a hold of a terrorist monkey.” On Wednesday, Ayurvedic College Monkey sat in his isolation cell, baring his few teeth and threatening to throw a bucket of water on anyone who came near. In the neighborhood where he once roamed, people remembered him with a mixture of fear and fondness. Sure, he threatened the children with bricks, but he also was cute, people said. He was older, missing most of his teeth. His partner, who escaped, was the really scary monkey, they said. At Baljeet Kaur’s house, when the monkey demanded food, it was given cut apples and peeled bananas. Kaur, once bitten by a monkey, said she was happy this monkey was gone. But she also said she had no idea that it would spend its life behind bars. “They told us they would keep him in the forest, with the other monkeys,” she said. “They didn’t tell us they would keep him in jail.”
“The rehab centre will be located on the site of defunct ‘monkey jail’
Indian school for rogue monkeys / 24 July 2009
“…Officials accuse monkeys of a variety of bad behaviour from terrorising children, snatching food from people and destroying property. “Macaque monkeys routinely destroy TV antennae, tear down clothes-lines and damage parked scooters and motorcycles. “Besides people landing in hospitals after encounters with monkeys, the animals also often get hurt when house owners try to chase them away or keep them out by using live electric wires and other means,” chief wildlife warden RK Luna told the BBC. The proposed new monkey school will take in the “worst offenders” and put them through a crash course in good manners.
“We have proposed a composite facility where scientific methods will be employed to change and alter the social habits of the monkeys,” Mr Luna said. Wildlife officials hope to reduce aggression and train the monkeys to be more like the wild animals they originally were. It is hoped that the school will eventually become a temporary home for up to 100 rogue monkeys. It will begin with 15-20 animals complete with a quarantine area and a veterinary hospital. The monkey rehabilitation centre is planned as an extension to a mini zoo near the city of Patiala, in a thickly forested area that was once the royal hunting grounds of the princely state of Patiala. It replaces an earlier – now defunct – holding facility or “jail” for rogue monkeys also located at the site several years ago. Mr Luna said work on the school would begin as soon as possible.”