I live in a complex that has plenty of monkeys leaping around from trees and buildings. They do favour some buildings with uninvited visits grabbing whatever they can.  With adequate grill protection, people and the few monkeys manage to co-exist.

The monkeys have been creating havoc in far off Delhi, where there is an estimated population of more than 5 lakh monkeys, 70% of them living in close proximity to humans. They are highly adaptable to changing circumstances, eating and drinking whatever we consume as well as learning to find out where the refrigerated goods are stored.

During the Commonwealth Games in 2010, monkeys had to be kept away from the sports venues.  The solution was to use trained langurs to scare off monkeys from public places. The Municipal Council used 38 langurs to keep the area monkey mukt. Their trainers said that each langur has the ability to scare off 50 potential attackers from the wild monkeys. These monkeys behave like, well, monkeys. They bite, they charge stealthily and sometimes bite people’s ears.  The trainers said that monkeys are afraid of the langurs and so they usually scatter when the taller langurs arrive.

Monkeys have been creating trouble in New Delhi’s government buildings for a long time. They are least bothered about the hierarchy of power and have no hesitation in frequenting the high-security Parliament complex or the North and South Blocks on Raisina Hill, which house important ministries such as defence, home, finance and the prime minister’s office. Sometimes they attack officials and destroy files, giving a good excuse for lost files. The government used to hire langurs because the monkeys have no respect for government buildings, where they are forbidden. They just go in and enjoy ripping apart the files. Since the monkeys are fast learners, soon they realized that teaming up and fighting the lone langur can be a way to face up to their bigger brother. An expert on primate behavior reported that monkeys share strong tendencies for nepotism and political maneuvering with humans. They are conscious of social status and will act like a dictator to wield power and use unpredictable aggression to intimidate when needed. They are capable of functioning as armies when needed.

However, before the elite langurs accepted defeat from united monkey teams, another development put them out of business. The animal rights activists pointed out that under Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, the langurs are a protected species and cannot be owned, sold or hired out. Violation entails a three year jail term. The Ministry of Environment and Forests issued letters to New Delhi state and federal ministries alerting them that chaining of the langurs and putting them to work was illegal. The langurs and their trainers became jobless.

The menace continued and something had to be done. Someone came up with the bright idea of training youths disguised as langurs to scare away the monkeys from the VVIP zone. These ‘human langurs’ suddenly appear from behind bushes and trees, even screeching like the langurs and scare away the monkeys. They are also equipped with rubber bullets.

So far, everyone is happy with some youths getting employment and monkeys temporarily prevented from doing monkey business. However, if the monkeys team up and learn that behind the langur look alike is a scared human, who can be easily chased away, the authorities will have to come up with new ways to tackle the menace. It could include praying to Hanuman, the monkey God.


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