When the dogs are away, the monkeys will play

From ANIMAL PEOPLE, January/February 2002:

HONG KONG, BANGKOK, KUALA LUMPUR, BUCHAREST, NEW DELHI–
Celebrating 99 years as the first and biggest humane society west of
San Francisco and east of Mumbai, the Hong Kong SPCA will go no-kill
in June 2002, executive director Chris Hanselman announced on
January 1.
The Hong Kong SPCA has handled dog and cat sheltering and
population control killing for much of the city since 1921–like the
San Francisco SPCA, which held the San Francisco animal control
contract from 1895 until 1984, when it began a five-year phase-out
while the S.F. Department of Animal Care and Control geared up to
take over.


Following the San Francisco model, the Hong Kong SPCA will
cede all animal control responsibility to the Hong Kong Agriculture,
Fisheries, and Conservation Department. After June 2002, Hanselman
said, the Hong Kong SPCA will concentrate on sterilizing dogs and
cats, rehoming adoptable animals, and doing the humane law
enforcement and public education that were the original focus of the
organization.
As in San Francisco, the transition to no-kill has been long
in planning. Hanselman told ANIMAL PEOPLE he was working toward it
at the 1999 International Companion Animal Welfare Conference in
Sofia, Bulgaria. He later visited the San Francisco SPCA and hosted
a return visit from SF/SPCA president Ed Sayres to help visualize the
necessary changes in the Hong Kong SPCA modus operandi.
The transition, though still under wraps, was the chief
topic of discussion when ANIMAL PEOPLE visited the Hong Kong SPCA and
the future site of the Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation
Department pound in November 2000.
Hanselman explained then that the Hong Kong SPCA would only
go no-kill when he was satisfied that the pound had adequate
facilities, budget, personnel, and training to properly handle the
workload.
On January 1, however, Hanselman let others take the credit.
“The society’s 15 vets have told management that they no
longer want to kill healthy animals,” reported Ella Lee of the South
China Morning Post.
But that perspective is what Hanselman wanted when he hired
them, emphasizing expansion of pet sterilization capacity and
recruiting vets with the promise that population control killing
would be phased out as rapidly as practicable.
The AFCD pound and the Hong Kong SPCA combined to kill 23,000
dogs and cats in 2001–about half the volume of New York City, in a
metropolis of closely comparable human population and density.
However, the rate of petkeeping in Hong Kong is believed to
be far lower than in New York City, where the rate of petkeeping is
about half the U.S. norm. New York City sells about 140,000 dog
licenses per year; Hong Kong sells 94,000, and almost certainly has
a higher rate of licensing compliance.
Conversely, the Hong Kong feral cat population is larger.
Heavy traffic, frequent garbage collection, and buried sewers have
combined to almost eliminate street dogs from the busy parts of Hong
Kong during the past 20 years, but cats took quick advantage of the
vacated habitat, sleeping on balconies and rooftops by day,
descending into the alleys to hunt and mate by night.
Dog-eating and cat-eating passed from vogue in Hong Kong so
long ago as to be non-factors in the modern-day urban ecology. Other
than western-style animal control pickups by the Hong Kong SPCA and
AFCD animal control officers, the only evident brakes on the growth
of the cat population before the recent advent of neuter/return were
unauthorized and illegal poisonings by private parties. The Hong
Kong SPCA investigations department thinks most recent poisonings
have been the work of just one person, still at large– although the
quest to bring him to justice gets as much attention from the Hong
Kong media as the pursuit of human serial killers.
Private cat rescue groups, such as the Cat Salvation Army
founded by psychiatrist William Fan, emerged during the early 1990s.
They gained an ally when Hong Kong SPCA chief veterinarian Margaret
Bradley and lieutenant director Pauline Taylor, DVM, began a “Cat
Colony Carer” program to help insure that feral cats are sterilized
and vaccinated. That program is now to be expanded.
The Hong Kong SPCA also recently opened a Kowloon satellite
clinic, to do more sterilization and adoptions, including outreach
into the New Territories, the less developed area directly adjacent
to mainland China.

Role model

“Everything we do,” Hanselman explained to ANIMAL PEOPLE,
“is done with the idea in mind that we are the most accessible role
model for humane work in China. Right now, while China is just
opening up to new ideas, is the time to teach. We can either get it
right here and show the people how it’s done, or maybe lose the
chance and it won’t ever happen.”
Hanselman is keenly aware of the role of the Hong Kong SPCA
and other humane societies in redefining the human relationship with
dogs and cats, on terms kinder to the animals. Hanselman is also
aware of how reshaping the human relationship with pets can influence
the human relationship with other domesticated species and wildlife.
The Hong Kong SPCA is actively pursuing plans to add an
education-and-rescue center alongside the main route to the New
Territories, to teach humane treatment of farm animals.
This would augment and expand upon similar work done in the
New Territories by the Kadoorie Farm & Botanic Gardens. Founded in
1951 to do livestock education, Kadoorie Farm has focused on
wildlife rehabilitation since 1995–including housing non-native
primates of many species, confiscated from smugglers and sometimes
found at large.

Monkeys

Wild macaques swinging through the trees to visit the
captives represent a more subtle effect of success in curbing dog and
cat reproduction, eliminating street dogs, ending monkey-eating,
and encouraging green space.
Now Hong Kong has habitat for urban wildlife. The
Agriculture, Fisheries, and Conservation Department believes about
1,400 macaques inhabit the New Territories, and that the macaque
population is increasing at 5% to 8% per year. The carrying capacity
of the habitat is completely unknown. Hoping to hold the macaque
population at about 2,000, enough to occupy the larger parks without
becoming an excessive nuisance, the Agriculture, Fisheries, and
Conservation Department has begun experimentally treating troupes of
about 20 macaques at a time with injectible sterilants similar to
some of those developed and reportedly soon to be available for
treating dogs and cats.
Veterinarian David Burrows, heading the program, hopes that
the injectible sterilants will limit macaque fecundity without the
complications which make surgically sterilizing primates by the
methods used with dogs and cats impractical. Among those
complications, castrated males tend to be rejected by their troupes,
so become dependent on humans for food and companionship, and
therefore become more problematic. Spayed females no longer come
into estrus. That isn’t a problem for them, but–if the females are
also not sexually receptive–may send unaltered and vasectomized
males wandering.

Baboons

Some of the Hong Kong technique is borrowed from the
experience of Gibraltar, the British enclave in southern Spain,
where baboons brought somehow from North Africa during the Moorish
occupation of circa 700 to 1492 A.D. persist in a colony of about
250. There were barely 60 baboons left in 1993, when killing them
was at last forbidden. After the colony quadrupled in the next five
years, reoccupying a habitat niche kept open by the ongoing
extirpation of free-roaming dogs, the baboons were in early 1998
placed on birth control drugs, using a combination of surgically
implanted contraceptive devices and drugs administered with food.
If Hong Kong perfects a nonlethal approach to nuisance
monkeys that works, it may soon be emulated in cities as far away as
the Americas where declining dog populations also coincide with the
possible beginnings of a monkey population explosion. The Gibraltar
experiment, meanwhile, may presage a change in the approaches to
baboon control now used, without much success, from western South
Africa to Saudi Arabia.
In Uganda, where what to do about baboons and vervets was an
election issue in 2001, Uganda Wildlife Authority spokesperson
Lilly Ajarova announced on January 17, 2002 that the UWA would soon
authorize district vermin control officers to hunt the animals
wherever found outside of designated national parks, forests, and
game reserves.
The wisdom of that approach could be questioned, and not
just because killing baboons tends to cause them to change tactics
rather than abandoning habitat.
Unlike most other nonhuman primates, baboons fight back
against humans– especially if they have humans outnumbered and
surrounded, and the humans have not put on a convincing enough
dominance display.
In February 2000, for instance, a troupe stoned Kenyan
cattle herder Ali Adam Hussein to death when Hussein tried to keep
them away from a pond during a drought.
In October 2000, John Oluka, 16, of Opuyo village in
Soroti, Uganda, tried to drive a big male baboon out of his
family’s garden with a stick. The baboon grabbed the stick away and
flogged Oluka in front of numerous human witnesses.
In December 2000, a Saudi driver killed a baboon on the road
from Mecca to Taif. When he returned along the same route three days
later, a sentinel baboon identified the car and summoned the troupe,
who stoned it as it passed, shattering the windshield.
Baboons, in short, do not concede human dominance–or,
reputedly, recognize the species boundary in sexual relations.
Whether or not there is truth to stories about baboons raping
human women, enough humans believe the stories that as James Hall of
the Johannesburg Mail & Guardian recently reported, “Political
opportunists in Swaziland want to use this to weaken a highly
effective anti-poaching act,” by amending it to allow more people to
carry firearms in wildlife areas.
“Galile residents say the baboons speak English, not
SiSwati,” Hall wrote. “‘The baboons scream and rip at our roofs,’
says Heather Shongwe. ‘We hear them shout for sex. That is all that
is on their minds: sex, sex, sex.'”
Added Musa Mlothswa, “All the women and girls are terrified.
The baboons threaten us. They have shown they have the ability to
take our women by force.”
Baboons will flee from dogs–but usually only if the dogs are
more aggressive and have the baboons outnumbered. The typical
innocuous street dog flees from a baboon onslaught. This may be
among the reasons why dogs have traditionally not been esteemed in
most Islamic nations, whose geography largely coincides with baboon
distribution and also with the primary range for canine rabies.

Malaysia

Malaysia is among the Islamic nations that are most tolerant
of dogs, with several active humane societies whose volunteers
sterilize dogs, adopt some out, and educate against cruel treatment
of dogs.
But Malaysia has relatively few dogs compared to mostly Hindu
India, mostly Buddhist Thailand, and the mostly Catholic
Philippines, because relatively few Malaysians keep dogs as pets,
feed them, eat them, or for any other reason encourage them to hang
around. In Kuala Lampur, the Malaysian capital, with 1.4 million
people, the animal control department sold 16,000 dog licenses in
2000, believed to represent a high rate of licensing compliance,
and killed 7,000 dogs, 2,500 fewer than in 1999, for a killing rate
per 1,000 humans of just 5.0.
What Malaysia predictably has in growing numbers are urban
monkeys, many of them escaped former work-monkeys and pets, whose
occasional attacks on children and celebrities like Italian bicycle
racing chmapion Paolo Bettini get about the level of media attention
accorded to life-threatening dog attacks in the U.S.
Relatively few of the monkey attacks are life-threatening,
but some are every parent’s nightmare, as when a male monkey trained
to pick coconuts broke off a tether in October 2001, snatched a
month-old boy off the breast of Rosmani Lilawati Sharri, 24, of
Kampung Chenok, and escaped with him. The monkey only cuddled the
boy, who reportedly did not cry and suffered only scratches, and
was returned after a 10-minute standoff, but the boy was
hospitalized for three days to ensure that the scratches did not
become infected. The monkey was also not harmed, but was given to
another employer.
Thousands of monkeys, dogs, and cats have recently been
massacred in governmental shows of force following rabies outbreaks
and civil unrest in East Flores, Indonesia, with little word of
local protest reaching ANIMAL PEOPLE. Malaysians, however, vocally
objected in June 2001 after Wildlife and National Parks Department
personnel left monkeys they had captured in aluminim box traps out in
the sun for hours. Criticism of Wildlife and National Parks
Department handling of monkey problems intensified in September 2001,
after soldiers and staff shot 97 monkeys and 15 squirrels in a
contest held ostensibly to protect palm fruit and banana plantations.

Thailand

Thailand, sharing a border with Malaysia, has had
relatively little reported monkey trouble as yet. This might reflect
the Buddhist tradition of tolerance toward animals, practiced most
faithfully by the Thais and Sri Lankans, and might just mean that
monkey incidents go unreported because they are accepted as normal
aspects of life.
But again, Thailand has long had visibly more street dogs.
Dog sterilization drives have started and stopped repeatedly since
1994, waxing and waning with the often shaky Thai economy.
Despite several announcements that dog-killing would be
abandoned in favor of sterilization and vaccination, the Bangkok
Metropolitan Administration killed 700,000 dogs between 1980 and
2000, according to Tunya Sukpanich of The Bangkok Post: seven times
the current estimated street dog population, which doubled between
1994 and 1999.
Bangkok governor Samak Sendravej has “stopped the killing of
stray dogs, as it goes against basic Buddhist tenets of respect for
life,” wrote Sukpanich in December 2001. Instead, Sukpanich said,
42% of the city health department budget is spent on dog
sterilization and vaccination–but the city is still only managing to
treat about 12,000 dogs per year, making slow progress toward the
target of sterilizing 70%, which must be achieved to stop population
growth.
Bangkok deputy governor Prphan Kitisin on January 24 convened
a panel of veterinarians and public officials to determine ways and
means of reducing the stray dog population by 80% in two years.
If Bangkok can sterilize 70% of the free-roaming dogs this
year, the goal can be met–just barely–through normal attrition.
Unless aggressive sterilization is also part of the strategy,
killing 80% of the present dog population would not depress the
numbers for long. The surviving 20% could breed back to the carrying
capacity of the habitat within about three years–although the
carrying capacity might by then be diminished by explosive growth of
the feral cat and monkey populations. There is no data as yet as to
the abundance of cats in Thailand, but as of early January 2002,
rural drought was already forcing crab-eating macaques to move into
cities.

Bucharest

If eastern Europe had monkeys, or raccoons, whose only
European habitat is a small part of Germany, mayor Trian Basescu of
Bucharest, Romania, might already be facing an invasion.
Rejecting an ambitious dog sterilization program funded from
1997 until 2001 by the Fondation Brigitte Bardot, Veterinarians
Without Borders, Vier Pfoten, and other western European groups,
Basescu in April 2001 opted instead to exterminate the entire
Bucharest street dog population.
Data supplied by freelance correspondent and former Bucharest
sterilization clinic volunteer Chuck Todaro indicates that the
Basescu hit squads had killed more than 50,000 dogs through January
2002, from a street dog population estimated by the sterilization
project directors at 80,000 to 100,000.
In November 2001, the Romanian national government passed
legislation requiring animal control departments to hold dogs through
a seven-day reclaim period before killing them, and to kill them
only by lethal injection, instead of by the poisoning and
bludgeoning methods that the Basescu hit squads reportedly favor.
Ignoring the new law, Todaro reported on January 31, 2002,
the Basescu administration “has continued to practice mass
extermination. The volume of killing has doubled to 500 dogs per day
since the pound at Ciasna was reopened,” following a temporary
closure “after local television showed staff killing dogs with their
hands and feet.”
Since eastern Europe lacks monkeys and raccoons, the major
effect of the Bucharest dog killing on the local urban ecology is
likely to be to encourage population explosions of rats and feral
cats this spring.

Evolution

On the practical level, the emergence of monkeys as an urban
animal care and control problem represents ecological change.
More subtly, it is almost an evolutionary reversal. We are
going back in some ways to conditions resembling those of our distant
past, before we shared our lives with dogs and tamed cats–except
that now we believe our mastery of reproductive science and habitat
is sufficient to live in safe proximity to many of the kinds of
animals we once either fled from or drove away. We are losing our
fear of the wilderness. Many humans now imagine it as a Garden of
Eden.
For most of human history, our ancestors foraged and
scavenged in often losing competition with the other great apes,
protohumans, and baboons for habitat primacy in eastern Africa.
Human ancestors might have had an edge in intelligence, but not in
size, strength, speed, or bite. All of the big cats ate us.
Eagles ate our young.
Humans were confined to Africa by the success of an earlier
experiment of nature in creating a highly intelligent omnivore with
the ability to stand on hind legs when necessary. Across the
northern hemisphere the bear-and-raccoon family monopolized the food
sources and natural shelter that primates might otherwise have used.
Like the big cats, the larger species ate primates. The smaller
species, whose opposable thumbs were as dextrous as those of
humanss, had thick natural fur that enabled them to outlast
primates wherever snow fell.
Some argue that taming fire enabled humans to fan out across
the globe. Fire certainly helped, but fire is a tool, not an ally.
Fire is not easily contained, or carried, or kept burning
throughout a time of peril, when fuel is scarce and gathering it is
dangerous. Each of the other primal elements–earth, air, and
water–can quickly snuff a flame, and then a human who has fire but
not a dog is alone in the dark, defenselesss.
Whether humans befriended dogs first, or dogs befriended
humans, the alliance made fire more useful. Humans could sit around
a fire to work and talk, backs to the night, secure in their
awareness that dogs kept vigil just beyond the light. Humans could
weave, carve, and share knowledge because dogs stood guard.
Packs of dogs chased the menacing cats into the trees,
rousted the raptors from scavenged carcasses, helped humans herd and
hunt, and even drove back the great cave bears as humans moved north
into Asia and Europe. Canine territoriality protected crops from
other animals, including fellow primates, among whom the prolific
and aggressive baboons might have been the greatest threat to
primitive agriculture.
Later, as humans pushed into North America and began growing
corn as a dietary staple, dogs provided the decisive edge against
crop-raiding raccoons.
No matter where humans went and what humans did, or did to
dogs, dogs went with humans, and were loyal. When humans built
great cities, dogs claimed only the refuse pits and the less
trafficked parts of the streets–and remained on duty.
Today, in the largest and busiest cities, and in much of
the rest of the developed world, dogs have been asked to stand down.
They still serve humans at home and in the workplace, in countless
ways, but are no longer welcome to patrol the streets.
Now the smaller cats who were never a threat to humans are
descending from the rooftops that long have been their habitat in
lieu of forest canopy. Baboons, macaques, and languors are
swinging in over fences, where the climate permits.
In North America, raccoons lead a proliferation of native
urban wildlife, thriving in suburbs at densities never recorded in
non-human-manipulated nature.
Humans made the choice of having more than one friend when we
relatively recently formed friendly relations with cats.
Today, by taking dogs off our streets, we are inviting every highly
adaptable species to come and live among us. With these others may
come countless unforseen benefits. But they also bring their own
problems, including previously little known and potentially deadly
parasites and diseases.
As humans learn to live and cope with new friends and
neighbors, dogs–and cats–may have a new role in helping to ease
the introduction. As well as protecting humans from wildlife
threats, as they always have, and helping other species to learn
human territorial boundaries, dogs and cats kept in homes, as pets,
can teach humans to better understand and more patiently respond to
the behavior of all species–if human are persuaded to pay attention.
Although free-roaming dogs and cats are often unjustly blamed
for losses of native species, whose habitats have typically been
diminished by urban expansion, the nations with the most fragmented
urban ecologies tend to be those with the least tolerance of
free-roaming animals of any kind.
Japan, for example, exhibits perhaps the least tolerance of
dogs and cats at large of any nation outside the former Communist
block, within which petkeeping was persecuted as “bourgois.” Except
for the ARK Kansai shelter founded by British immigrant Elizabeth
Oliver, Japan has no big humane societies. Japanese animal control
units typically kill virtually all animals received, offer none for
adoption, kill owner-surrendered animals immediately or sell them to
laboratories, and hold licensed strays only briefly for possible
reclaim.
Not surprisigly, as the rest of the world became concerned
about protecting endangered native species, the city of Arashiyama
in 1972 exiled the entire local Japanese macaque [snow monkey] population to the South Texas Primate Observatory, now run by the
Animal Protection Institute.
Little has changed since then. Japan is now officially
trying to exterminate feral raccoons, as well as free-roaming dogs
and cats, and Chiba and Wakayama prefectures in June 2001 announced
plans to kill local populations of feral rhesus macaques, whose
ancestors were imported as pets during the Japanese military
occupation of Taiwan, 1895-1945.
The activist group All Life In a Viable Environment reported
in June 2001 that 497 municipalities in 41 prefectures killed 10,161
monkeys altogether in fiscal 1999. About 20% of the municipalities
made no effort to remediate conflicts with monkeys by other means,
ALIVE leader Fusako Nogami said.
“In most cases, the monkeys were shot. However, two towns
and villages starved the monkeys after capturing them, three others
killed them by drowning, and seven beat them to death,” the
newspaper Yomiuri Shimbun reported.

The opposite approach

The whole of India is a subcontinent-wide demonstration of an
entirely opposite approach, within which a flourishing urban
wildlife ecology has coexisted with humans, work animals, pets,
and livestock for more than thirty centuries.
The balance has always fallen well short of idyllic for many
individuals, including rabies victims, mangy street dogs,
overworked beasts of burden, aged and no longer productive cattle
who are left to wander, and both domesticated species and captured
wildlife who are subjected to tribal sacrifice.
Yet the agrarian nature of Indian society has afforded urban
and suburban habitat rich enough to sustain even tigers, elephants,
leopards, and jaguars without special effort to attract and protect
them. More often, special efforts have been made to keep them at
bay. The deaths of tens of thousands of Indians per year from
snakebite, tiger attack, elephant stampede, and even rabid dogbite
has been accepted with extraordinary equanimity. Wild animals who
kill people are often neither killed nor removed from the habitat
until they present an obvious ongoing threat.
Now the arrival of mechanization and the explosive human
population growth of the past half century are transforming much of
India into metropolitan habitat, heavily developed, within which
some traditional habitat niches are squeezed while others expand.
Conflicts are exacerbated, including with some species which were
never before much of a problem, requiring the humans and animals of
India to learn all over again how to live with each other.

Mrs. Gandhi vs. Korea

In official recognition of the importance of the animal/human
relationship, Indian federal minister of state for animals Maneka
Gandhi holds a post created in 1998, unique in all the world, as
cabinet advocate for every species–not just those deemed endangered
or useful.
Also the founder of the advocacy group People for Animals,
Mrs. Gandhi has remarked that the challenge of her lifetime is
helping India undertake an unprecedentedly rapid expansion of
economic opportunity, social justice, and civil liberties, while
living up to the obligations toward animals that are fundamental to
the Hindu, Jain, and Buddhist religions, and were enshrined by
request of Mohandas Gandhi in the Indian constitution.
Until November 2001, Mrs. Gandhi also held more
traditionally influential cabinet positions, as minister for social
justice and empowerment from 1998 into early 2001, and minister for
culture thereafter. Her abrupt demotion in an apparent move by the
ruling Bharatiya Janata Party to placate opposition party chief Sonia
Gandhi, her sister-in-law and longtime bitter rival, was somewhat
mysterious.
“Certainly the most unique theory blamed everything on the
dogs,” offered India Today. “Some time ago Mrs. Gandhi dashed off a
letter to the South Korean ambassador in Delhi in protest against his
country’s practice of eating dogs. Mrs. Gandhi, sources in the
prime minister’s office claimed, thereby caused a diplomatic
incident.
“When contacted, Mrs. Gandhi confirmed that she had written
the letter, but added that it was her third communication with the
ambassador in recent weeks. The first was a phone call ‘when we
discovered that a Korean-owned restaurant in Chennai was serving dog
meat. I told him this was illegal,’ Mrs. Gandhi affirmed. Soon
afterward, residents of the south Delhi neighborhood where Mrs.
Gandhi lives complained that the food habits of a Korean diplomat
were causing stray dogs to disappear. Mrs. Gandhi was again on the
phone, and ‘The ambassador didn’t deny the allegations.'”
South Korean ambassadors have clout in India because South
Korea is among India’s most important trading partners and sources of
outside investment capital. Yet if demoting Mrs. Gandhi was meant as
a message to South Korea, within the demotion was the further
message that even if Mrs. Gandhi’s position in a traditional top
ministry was politically awkward, her role as the official voice for
the voiceless was more-or-less endorsed.

Hanuman has the last laugh

Word on the street is that the Hindu god Hanuman may have the
last laugh, as son of a monkey and the god of the winds. An earthly
incarnation of Shiva, who represents male energy, Hanuman is at the
same time a liberator of women, as leader of a monkey army. Among
the Hindu pantheon, Hanuman is rising in popularity. The nationwide
proliferation of rhesus macaques and Hanuman languors is seen as
symbolic of his ascendance in an age of individual empowerment and
female emancipation.
Already the monkey army has stormed the Indian parliament,
not just once but on many occasions.
“At least 10,000 rhesus macaques have taken up residence in
the South Block, the magnificent red sandstone complex that houses
the defense, external affairs, and finance ministries, as well as
the arm headquarters and Delhi’s main hospital,” recently reported
London Telegraph correspondent Julian West. “The army chief and his
officers, as well as senior civil servants at adjoining ministries,
now sit in caged rooms after files containing top secret documents
were found strewn in corridors and power cables to computers
containing sensitive data were snapped. Visiting ambassadors have
been threatened by screeching primates swinging down from the trees.
An army major was hopitalized for rabies injections after a female
macaque bit him, and staff at the foreign ministry contracted
jaundice after a monkey drowned in the water tank.”
Throughout Delhi and surrounding suburbs, especially where
the street dog numbers have been thinned, as in and around the South
Block, macaques wreak similar havoc. All over India, macaques and
Hanuman languors have taken over temples, which have traditionally
been kept dog-free. Now they are expanding their range–invading the
nearly dog-free college and university campuses, for example.
In Darjeeling, a troupe recently spread from the Mahakal
Temple to attempt to annex Loreto College. The invaders were trapped
and left at a forest refuge, but–urban-born and raised–they soon
came back to town. An organization of Loreto College women were
demanding at last report that the monkeys should be left alone.
At Lucknow University, macaques became so aggressive that in
June 2001 the faculty and custodial staff threatened to go on strike
if something was not done to evict them. The most notorious nuisance
was reportedly a monkey who became an alcoholic after rowdy male
students taught him to drink. If he didn’t get his daily beer, he
went on a rampage.
The Lucknow police were sympathetic: on February 17, 2001,
a lone monkey accomplished a singlehanded takeover of a neighborhood
police outpost, and held it for three hours while the evicted
officers tried to lure him out with biscuits and bananas.
Because monkeys are viewed as incarnations of Hanuman, who
is himself an incarnation of one of the most powerful gods in the
Hindu pantheon, killing them is politically unthinkable. A
monkey-catcher in Hyderabad named Kutubuddin tried to keep several
dozen in an improvised jail. Local People for Animals secretary
Vasanthi Vadi reportedly led a raid that freed 45 monkeys after K.
Kaladhar of The Times of India exposed overcrowding, starvation,
and the alleged deaths of many monkeys.
Jailing monkeys is acceptable, but only after conviction for
a serious crime–like 11 monkeys caught in various parts of northern
Punjab, who now “glare and snarl at visitors from well-guarded and
heavily barred cells in a corner of the Motibagh Bir Zoo in Patiala,”
notes Daily Telegraph correspondent Rahul Bedi.
“All 11 monkeys are hard cases who have been apprehended by
game wardens for thieving, terrorizing, and biting people. It is
unlikely that any of them will ever be paroled,” chief monkey jailer
Ram Tirath told Bedi.

Monkey heroes

Despite the trouble that monkeys bring, they are seen as
having a helpful aspect. In Puri, for instance, near Bhubaneswar,
burglars on November 11 seized and fled with icons of the Lord Madan
Mohan and Lord Narayan from the 12th century Jagannath Temple
complex. Thirty thousand mourners gathered at the temple to fast
until the icons were found. As police combed the temple complex for
clues, a monkey kept trying to attract the attention of supervising
officer Ajit Vas, reported Hindu Press International. At last Vas
allowed the monkey to lead him toward a well. The monkey pointed
down it. The icon of Lord Madan Mohan, made from an alloy including
gold and silver, was found at the bottom.
Earlier, one of the problematic Lucknow monkeys became a
hero to police by finding and detonating a cache of homemade bombs.
The ascendency of monkeys in urban habitat took on a
psychological dimension in May 2001 when an alleged “monkey-man”
wrought nocturnal havoc from rural Uttar Pradesh into inner Delhi.
“People who claim to have spied it say it leaps effortlessly
across rooftops, scratches with long, poisoned metal claws, and
vanishes into thin air,” wrote New York Times correspondent Celia W.
Dugger. “Burglaries have simply stopped because so many people are
not sleeping, but are standing guard at their homes, police say. A
pregnant woman tumbled down the stairs of her home in Delhi as she
fled in terror. In Noida, a man fell from his roof as he tried to
escape the monkey-man. Both died. A man in Delhi leapt from a
rooftop to his death after a slumbering man who thought he felt
something yanking on his sheet cried out that the monkey had come.”
Of 379 police calls reporting monkey-man visits, police
quickly eliminated 303 as mere manifestations of mass hysteria. Most
of the rest described the normal behavior of urban monkeys and feral
cats, who seem to be often mistaken for the more familiar monkeys in
their incursions into shantytowns where dogs have long claimed every
open habitat niche.
Absent from all the many “monkey-man” accounts that ANIMAL
PEOPLE collected from Indian news media were any mentions of the once
ubiquitous street dogs giving pursuit, or even so much as barking.
Already, immediately after completing a series of manuals on
street dog sterilization, vaccination, and general care, Mrs.
Gandhi and staff are rushing to print similar primers about cats,
plus the first known manual on the humane control of street monkeys.
The most successful approach so far seems to be “hiring” and
training older and larger Hanuman languors to keep the smaller
languors and macaques within bounds. Just two languors, working for
$15 worth of bananas per month, are reportedly now protecting the
South Block governmental complex more effectively than anything else
tried to date.

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