Monkeys rampage in Indian capital

Updated: 2007-11-13 19:36

Animal control officers were deployed to chase the beasts away.

Estimates of Delhi's monkey population range from 10,000 to over 20,000.

In 2001 residential districts petitioned courts to make Delhi "monkey-free" and last May, federal lawmakers demanded protection.

But there has been little visible progress.

"We're trying to catch them but the difficulties are a shortage of monkey catchers. We're not able to take full action at full speed," A.K. Singh, a senior municipal official, said.

Delhi has a 10-million-rupee (US$253,000) budget to capture the common rhesus macaques which are handed over to a shelter in a disused mine area on the outskirts.

Neighbouring states have refused to release the macaques into their forests because they say the "urban monkeys" terrorise the local monkeys and swipe food from villages.

Animal control officials often use langurs, which are bigger and fiercer monkeys, to scare away the smaller macaques or drive them into cages.

Efforts to drive out the animals is complicated by the fact that devout Hindus view them as an incarnation of Hanuman, the monkey god who symbolises strength. Killing them is unacceptable.

Delhi's mayor has admitted authorities are fighting a losing battle.

"We've neither the expertise nor the infrastructure," said Mayor Aarti Mehra.

Once caught, "we're under pressure to release ... from animal activists and from people due to religious reasons."

Kartick Satyanarayanan, head of India's Wildlife SOS, said the invasion of natural habitats by mushrooming populations was at the root of the problem.

"Humans are taking all their space."

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