New Delhi (AFP) Nov 13, 2007
Just weeks after the Indian capital's deputy mayor toppled to his death fighting off a pack of monkeys, the animals are back on the attack, sparking fresh concerns about the simian menace.
One woman was seriously hurt and two dozen other people were given first aid after monkeys rampaged through a neighbourhood in east Delhi over the weekend.
"There were about three or four monkeys involved," deputy police commissioner Jaspal Singh told AFP.
"Wildlife officials are trying to find them. As police we're not experts in dealing with monkeys. We can deal with mad bulls but monkeys are more difficult," he said.
Along with an estimated 35,000 sacred cows and buffaloes that roam free in the capital, marauding monkeys have been longstanding pests.
They routinely scamper through government offices, courts and even police stations and hospitals as well as terrorise neighbourhoods.
Trouble boiled over in late October when the city's deputy mayor, Sawinder Singh Bajwa, 52, fell to his death driving away monkeys from his home.
He was on his balcony reading a newspaper when four monkeys appeared, his family said. As he waved a stick to scare them away, he tumbled over the edge and died in hospital from head injuries.
In the latest incident in Delhi's low-income Shastri Park area, residents reported the monkeys appeared late Saturday and rampaged for hours.
"I was talking to someone at my door at around 11 pm when a monkey appeared," Naseema, who goes by one name, told the Times of India. "As I moved inside, the monkey followed and sank its teeth in my baby's leg."
Six more bites were reported Monday in Shastri Park, while in an upscale neighbourhood in central Delhi, a rogue monkey bounded into the residence of Priyanka Gandhi, daughter of ruling Congress party chief Sonia Gandhi, The Indian Express said.
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 (253,000 dollar) 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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