With an estimated 3,000 monkeys at large in certain residential areas of the Uttar Pradesh capital, local authorities are chasing the animals on a war footing, particularly after a child lost his life to a marauding simian pack.
The Mayawati government realised the need for more concerted action only after a three-year-old boy fell off his terrace while desperately attempting to save himself from being mauled by a pack of monkeys last Saturday. State forest minister Fateh Bahadur Singh then promptly got his officials into action.
After chasing monkeys for nearly 48 hours, they had their first success on Tuesday afternoon when they trapped two monkeys.
"We have managed to trap two monkeys today and hope to get more over the next few days," Lucknow's divisional forest conservator CP Goel said.
Asked why his team of a dozen professional monkey catchers were unable to achieve more success, Goel pleaded: "Please don't go by just numbers as monkey catching involves a strategy whereby we target the leader of each pack; once you have got the leader the rest of the pack disperses or runs for safety."
According to him, "the trapped animals will be let loose in some nearby forest from where they would not be able to return to urban habitation."
Goel admitted that the menace had acquired alarming proportions and needed to be tackled on a war footing. "So far the task of monkey catching was entrusted to the municipal corporation, but now that the menace had grown manifold, the administration has decided to hand over the responsibility to the forest and wildlife department."
Meanwhile, Islamuddin, father of the three-year-old Mohammad Arbaz who died, has appealed to the district authorities "to save lives of citizens from unbridled infiltration by monkeys into several residential localities". His six-year-old daughter is still in hospital, though she managed to wriggle out of the clutches of the monkeys on the same day her brother lost his life.
"My children were playing on the terrace of our house in the old city when they were surrounded by a pack of monkeys. The children's screams drew other members of the family as well as some neighbours to their help. While my daughter managed to run down the steps even as she was bitten and bruised by the monkeys, a terrorized three-year-old Arbaz got cornered by the attack and fell off the terrace and succumbed to his injuries," Islamuddin said.
Reports said that the monkey menace had been growing in Lucknow for quite some time, but no concrete action was taken by the authorities to contain it. All that the municipal authorities did was to ask their only listed monkey catcher Harbans Singh to trap the animals.
Singh on his part claims: "Earlier I have trapped as many as about 500 monkeys, but my bill for more than 100 monkeys was pending for more than two years. So how do you expect me to do anything?"
Now, with the forest department having taken command of the situation, an in-house team of professionals was detailed to bring an end to the plight of the harried citizens.