From the archive, originally posted by: [ spectre ]

http://www.ft.com/cms/s/6412c11e-7129-11db-8e0b-0000779e2340.html

Delhi monkeys around with primate problem but Hindu faith rules out gorilla warfare

By Jo Johnson /   November 11 2006

“Softly softly catchee monkey” is all very well but 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.