New Delhi Hires Monkey Impersonators to Protect ParliamentArticle by Sean McLain on IndiaRealtime for The Wall Street Journal - Read original article HERE
A feral monkey sits on the head of a demonstrator in New Delhi on Dec. 24, 2012. Agence France-Presse/Getty Images
For the past year, the homes of judges and ministers in India’s capital have been guarded by a group of barking men.
Their target: the roving gangs of rhesus macaques that uproot vegetable gardens, strip fruit trees bare and raid garden tea parties.
New Delhi’s monkey police use their voices, imitating the whoops and guttural barks of the grey langur monkey, a natural enemy of the smaller rhesus macaque.
The growing monkey problem led politician Ambeth Rajan, to ask the government on the floor of the upper house of Parliament about what India’s government was doing about “the monkey and stray dog menace…particularly inside and around the area of Parliament House.”
Urban Development Minister Venkaiah Naidu replied that the New Delhi Municipal Corporation employs “40 trained young men who can disguise themselves as langurs and scare the monkeys away,” according to the transcript on the Parliament website.
While the statement had many thinking there were boys in monkey costumes running around the capital, the answer may have been misunderstood.
By disguise, the minister meant that the men imitated the noises langurs make, said a city official who declined to be named.
Until last summer, Delhi’s streets were patrolled by actual langurs. Monkey catchers and their trained langurs walked a beat in posh neighborhoods or rushed to the scene of a macaque invasion. But the Indian government decided a year ago to start enforcing a rule against keeping langurs in captivity, putting an end to the practice.
The result has been a rise in monkey-related complaints to the New Delhi Municipal Corporation.
Without their langur partners, most monkey catchers moved to other professions. “We couldn’t find people who knew the tactics to scare the monkeys,” said the NDMC employee.
The municipality has outsourced the policing of monkeys to a contractor and identified 40 important locations that need protection including the homes of ministers and around Parliament.
Pramod Kumar is one of the forty monkey impersonators. He is stationed outside the home of a Supreme Court Justice, and sees between 50 to a 100 monkeys daily. He growls at them or chases them with a stick but says he doesn’t use a costume.
It remains unclear if the new troop of monkey guards are as effective as the originals.
“It can take an hour or more for the monkeys to get scared away,” said the city official. “They don’t get scared easily.”
–Preetika Rana contributed to this post.
Follow Sean on Twitter @McLainSean.
Want to hear the best of the monkey impressions? Listen to the NPR story HERE!