Dogs down, monkeys up in India
From ANIMAL PEOPLE, June 2007:
BANGALORE, HYDERA-BAD–Faster up a tree or the side of a
building than a feral cat, biting more powerfully and often than any
street dog, able to leap over monkey-catchers at a single bound,
and usually able to outwit public officials, rhesus macaques are
taking over Indian cities.
The chief reason is the recent drastic decline in street dogs.
The ecological role of Indian street dogs is threefold. As
scavengers, street dogs consume edible refuse. As predators,
street dogs hunt the rats and mice who infest the refuse piles. In
addition, as territorial pack animals, street dogs chase other
scavengers and predators out of their habitat.
Monkeys and pigs, in particular, have traditionally been
controlled by the combination of dogs consuming the available food
supply and packs of dogs chasing them–although monkeys have been
known to befriend dogs, and dogs to adopt and nurse orphaned rhesus
One dog is no match for a troupe of macaques or herd of pigs,
but several dogs usually prevail.
Now the Indian street ecology is abruptly changing. More
streets are paved, discouraging pigs, who prefer muddy habitats
where they can root and wallow. But as refuse collection has often
not improved, more food waste is left to scavenge.
Paved roads allow cars and trucks to go faster, posing a
greater threat to dogs, who forage in the streets, and not long ago
often napped in mid-intersection.
Beyond the vehicular threat to dogs, the federally
encouraged Animal Birth Control programs have markedly reduced dog
reproduction in many Indian cities. Panic-driven purges following
recent dog attacks have swept the streets of even the sterilized dogs
in some cities, notably Banglore and Hyderabad.
But the garbage remains, more abundant than ever, and
monkeys are quick to seize the opportunity, often taking arboreal
routes above the traffic that hits their canine rivals. Frequently
they detour into homes through open windows or balcony doorways.
The succession of street species was illustrated in April and
May 2007 in the Bangalore suburb of Yelahanka.
Just as the furor over fatal dog attacks on children in other
Bangalore suburbs on January 5 and March 1 began to settle, street
dogs reportedly either mauled or killed a child in Yelahanka.
What exactly happened is still unclear. According to New India
Press, the victim was a three-year-old, who was attacked on April
13, but two days earlier Bangalore activist Gopi Shankar posted to
the Bangalore Animals newsgroup, “We had a six year old boy die of
rabies yesterday at Yelahanka, about 20 kms north of Bangalore, in
an area which was not covered by ABC, or for that matter any sort of
“According to some reports,” Shankar continued, “the boy
was bitten by a dog on March 25, and did not inform his parents,
who are quite poor. But nobody has found the rabid dog, nor is it
confirmed if the boy was indeed bitten by dogs.
“According to some local residents,” Shankar added, “the
area has had some dogs released by Bangalore municipal vans. These
dogs were caught from within the city limits.”
Yelahanka is among the areas where an Animal Help Ahmedabad
surgical team had already contracted to sterilize street dogs.
Before the team arrived, however, dogs were the targets of several
days of mob violence.
“It’s monkey trouble in Yelahanka,” headlined The Hindu
three weeks later, on May 8, 2007. Correspondent Divya Gandhi
described a simian home invasion.
“About 20 monkeys ripped through every edible item in the
kitchen,” she wrote. “The resident, blood boiling, saw visions of
bumping them off with a shotgun.”
A parallel story had already developed quite predictably in
Chitradurga, where The Hindu on March 3, 2007 reported that the
city administration “has decided to cull at least 1,000 dogs in the
next four days.”
The spring dog killing, undertaken contrary to federal law,
is an annual exercise, The Hindu noted, mentioning that 600 dogs
were killed in 2006.
“Monkey menace in Chitradurga,” headlined The Hindu on April
“After reports of at least six people being attacked by monkeys,”
The Hindu elaborated, “residents of a few localities here are living
in fear owing to increased monkey menace. Women and children, in
particular, are vulnerable victims.
“Forest official S. Neelakanthappa said the foray of monkeys
into human habitation in summer is common,” offering to “provide
experts to the civic body to catch monkeys,” The Hindu added.
The relationship between the annual dog culls and the monkey
incursions somehow eluded notice–and eluded notice likewise in
“Recent instances of poisoning of stray dogs in Tiruchi have
caused disgust among volunteers involved with the Animal Birth
Control and Rabies Elimination Project of the International Animal
Rescue,” wrote R. Krishnamoorthy on March 31, 2007. “Over the past
few years, the volunteers have sterilized as many as 2,400 dogs in
On February 22 and March 1, 2007, R. Rajaram of The Hindu
reported Forest Department captures of 73 monkeys from three
different troupes in the vicinity, who “would be released in
Puliancholai reserve forest,” with little likelihood of staying
there, in view of the accessibility and attractions of the Tiruchi
The biggest and most obvious example of monkeys taking over
habitat left by dogs might have been in Hyderabad. Yet there too
hardly anyone seemed to notice.
The background, Blue Cross of India chair Chinny Krishna
explained to the Asian Animal Protection Network, is that, “The
Municipal Corporation of Hyderabad two years ago stopped the
successful ABC program carried out by the Blue Cross of Hyderabad and
People for Animals, saying they would do it themselves. Close to
20,000 dogs were caught in the last two years and less than 1,500
were fixed, as per municipal records.”
In other words, about 18,500 Hyderabad street dogs were
killed. Even more dogs were captured and massacred after a fatal
dog attack in an outlying suburb of Hyderabad on March 28, 2007.
Killing dogs is politically popular in Hyderabad–but with
the typical result.
“The civic administration might be winning accolades on
several fronts, but containing the monkey menace in the city is not
one of them,” noted T. Lalith Singh of The Hindu on May 8, 2007.
“Handicapped by lack of trained professionals to catch monkeys,
Hyderabad may enter into a contract with one private team that
managed to snare 1,529 monkeys in the last year. Civic officials
estimate the simian presence to be anywhere between 5,000 and 10,000.”
What will be done with the monkeys, if captured?
“A temporary facility with 45 cages to accommodate some 250
simians has been set up at Amberpet,” Singh wrote.
Pressure to kill street dogs and monkeys often comes,
throughout India, from organizations representing poor and
illiterate members of the so-called “scheduled castes.” Politicians
seeking the so-called “scheduled caste vote” frequently use community
upset over dog attacks as a pretext for asserting that Animal Birth
Control programs are a hobby of the rich, diverting funds from
helping the poor, putting dog catchers out of work, exposing the
poor to mauling and maimings, and chiefly benefiting veterinarians
and makers of anti-rabies vaccine.
Dog attacks and especially rabies cases have markedly
decreased wherever ABC has been practiced successfully, but the
allegations against ABC have gained political momentum, based on the
argument that street dogs threaten the rights of poor people. The
same argument is also advanced against monkeys.
Former Indian minister of animal welfare and People for
Animals founder Maneka Gandhi on May 1, 2007 testified to the Andrha
Pradesh State Human Rights Commission that “the monkey menace in
residential localities could be eliminated if people stop feeding
monkeys,” The Hindu summarized.
Mrs. Gandhi founded the ministry for animal welfare as a
project of her former portfolio as minister for social welfare and
empowerment, responsible for improving the lives of the poorest of
the poor, but her credentials and testimony failed to change the
outlook of the Human Rights Commission, which had already favored
purging street dogs and has extended that policy to monkeys.
As with street dogs, who are “the dog menace” to some, but
are community pets to others, street monkeys have human friends and
defenders, many of whom do feed them.
In one extreme case, in Rohtas, a Patna suburb, a man
named Dadan Singh “started off by feeding 45 monkeys, but now there
are 772,” he told Ramlala Singh and Prabhakar Kumar of CNN on April
21, 2007. “Feeding so many monkeys is not an easy task,” Singh
added. “But most households of the village contribute,” he said,
“and they do it willingly.”
Also as with street dogs, street monkeys can be helpful–when not
being nuisances. “Once I was surrounded by dacoits [bandits]. I
called out for the monkeys and they helped me,” Dadan Singh claimed.
“Since that day I decided to take care of the monkeys.”
But monkey-feeding, also like dog-feeding, is sometimes a
prelude to poisoning–as occurred in August 2006 at Kurvanoothupalam,
Tamil Nadu, where 14 monkeys who had been accused of crop-raiding
were found buried in an orchard.
Reports of mass monkey poisoning so far are relatively few,
but reports of rampaging monkeys in spring 2007 came from all parts
At Jorhat, in the extreme eastern part of the nation, a
member of a marauding troupe in early February 2007 reportedly seized
but later released a human infant.
In Nalgonda, far to the south, attorney Gajji Kurumulu in
mid-February filed a lawsuit alleging that 450 monkeys had created
havoc for more than a year due to civic indifference.
At Udupi, on the west coast, The Hindu reported in late
March 2007, monkeys attacked “nearly 30 persons.”
In Udhagamandalam, said The Hindu, Coonoor Citizens Forum
secretary M.P.G. Nambisan “expressed serious concern over the menace
caused by monkeys and stray dogs,” and even noted both the role of
haphazard refuse disposal and the ascendance of monkeys as a greater
threat than dogs.
Yet Nambisan too failed to recognize that purging dogs
amounts to inviting monkeys to feast.