Saturday, August 20, 2005

Delhi goes ape over monkey menace

An unusually large group of Rhesus macaque monkeys, who seem to share the space with ministers and bureaucrats in New Delhi, are causing havoc at government offices.

The increasingly aggressive animals swing effortlessly between the offices of the defence, finance and external affairs ministries, and have even been spotted in the Prime Minister's office, government officials say.

The monkeys, who barge into government offices, stealing food, threatening bureaucrats, and even ripping apart valuable documents, are virtually unstoppable.

"My uncle was eating food in his car and had opened his window. It became so difficult for him and took him 45 minutes to finish his food. He was sweating so much while eating because the monkeys were climbing his car, sitting near his window and trying to extract food. Often they sit on seats of motorcycles and tear the seats away. It is a real nuisance for those who commute here daily," said Anand Kumar, a government employee.

According to rough estimates, there are at least 1500 monkeys scampering in and around the stately red sandstone buildings just a stone's throw from the Rashtrapati Bhavan.

But officials say there is little they can do to deal with the monkey menace at the North Block and the South Block.

Some years ago, former External Affairs Minister Jaswant Singh had taken the lead to ward off the simian terror invading these offices and took on the services of the black faced "langur", an ape the monkeys seem to be mortally afraid of.

Other offices too have picked up the service since then. Langur keepers were hired as government employees and paid a sum of 5000 rupees per month for the apes' services.

"This is a simple and easy way out of the problem and it does not involve any bloodshed also. They run away at the mere sight of him," said Shyam who owns two Langurs.

The langur, monkey trainers say, scares the day light out of the smaller simian cousins like a neighbourhood bully.

A permanent solution, however, is still a long way to come, it seems.

Story here.

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