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Monkey business for bitten babus
- officials rack brains to tackle menace

Primate pranks are no laughing matter in Delhi. So much so, that the monkey menace is now jostling with serious issues of governance for high-level attention.

Delhi chief secretary Shailja Chandra today held a meeting with the Delhi municipal corporation commissioner, the joint secretary of the Union environment ministry and four NGOs dealing with animal rights to discuss a comprehensive plan for trapping, vaccination, sterilisation and rehabilitation of monkeys.

Chandra directed the civic agencies to immediately implement an effective and time-bound plan of action to combat stray animals, specially apes.

An officer who attended the meeting said the NGOs kicked off a debate on whether the monkeys should be sterilised or vaccinated by pointing out that post-sterilisation, primates are not accepted by their community.

Chandra emphasised that socio- religious and cultural issues should be addressed in the blueprint being evolved.

Officers feel that the primates’ burgeoning population has much to do with people feeding them. To discourage the practice, the Delhi environment and forest department has come up with a campaign on the advice of noted animal rights activist, Rajat Bhargava, of the Bombay Natural History Society. The government will shortly go public with this campaign.

Monkeys are a menace not only in residential areas of the capital, traumatising children and adults alike on roads and in parks, but even at the seat of power — the Assembly and North and South Block. Government employees are easy prey. The primates often land officials in trouble by not only snatching their tiffin, but also government files.

Though the administration tried to scare away monkeys from government buildings by roping in trained langurs, the exercise has not had much of an impact.

According to another plan, the Delhi government trapped 200 monkeys some time ago. Now, they do not know what to do with them.

The chief secretary had requested the Delhi zoo to accommodate them, but the authorities refused for want of space. Chandra is expected to appeal again, pleading that they will be kept in the zoo temporarily before it is decided where to send them away.

Last month, the Centre organised a meeting of senior forest officials of neighbouring states. Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal had agreed in principle to help Delhi by rehabilitating the apes in their jungles, said government sources.

But, an officer said, Himachal Pradesh and Uttaranchal have backtracked on their promise, saying they have little room for unwanted primates.

Rakesh Mehta, the commissioner of the Municipal Corporation of Delhi, announced at the meeting that an animal birth control society, with representatives from the government, NGOs and academia, will be established.

The chief secretary has also sought proposals from NGOs on shelters for stray dogs by November 1.

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