India’s government faces a
tough re-election battle next year but first it must deal with an opponent as
wily as any political rival as troops of monkeys have become a big threat
around its offices in New Delhi.
Red-faced rhesus macaques have
spread havoc, snatching food and mobile telephones, breaking into homes and
terrorising people in and around the Indian capital.
They have colonised areas
around parliament and the sites of key ministries, from the prime minister’s
office to the finance and defence ministries, frightening both civil servants
and the public.
“Very often they snatch food
from people as they are walking, and sometimes they even tear files and
documents by climbing in through the windows,” said Ragini Sharma, a home
An advisory to members of
parliament last month detailed ways they could keep simian attacks at bay.
”Don’t tease or make direct eye
contact with a monkey and definitely don’t get between a mother and her
infant”, the advisory said,.
The rapid growth of cities has
displaced macaques, geographically the most widely distributed primates in the
world after humans, driving them into human habitats to hunt for food.
Many in Hindu-majority India
revere and feed the animals they consider to be connected to the demigod
Hanuman, who takes the form of a monkey.
“This socio-religious tradition
of feeding has created a vicious cycle,” said ecology researcher Asmita
Sengupta. They become used to being fed by humans and lose their sense of
fear.They start actively seeking supplementary food and if we don’t feed them,
they turn aggressive.”