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‘Langur’ trick to make monkey of monkey

New Delhi, July 31: Sometimes, imitation is the best form of attack.

If nothing else, it can make a monkey out of monkeys.

The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC) has hired 40 young men who can mimic the call of langurs, the natural enemy of the smaller rhesus macaque, to scare away this most common species of monkeys that have been the scourge of Parliament and its adjoining areas.

Union minister M. Venkaiah Naidu revealed the battle call. “…40 trained young men who can disguise themselves as langurs and scare the monkeys away” have been hired by the civic body, the urban development minister told the Rajya Sabha today in a written reply.

As for stray dogs, teams of dog-catchers visit the Parliament House and its surrounding areas twice a week, Naidu said.

The reply came in response to an MP’s query on the floor of the upper House asking what the government was doing about “the monkey and stray dog menace… particularly inside and around the area of Parliament House”.

The NDMC, the BJP veteran added, has also acquired “sure shot rubber bullet guns”.

While bullets do work, it is in the battle of wits where the authorities are expecting their simian adversaries to beat a retreat. An NDMC official explained how. “These men use their voices, imitating the whoops and guttural barks of the langurs,” spokesperson A.K. Mishra said.

The monkeys are, of course, expected to fall for the trick.

But why not real langurs, which, until last summer, had patrolled Delhi’s streets?

That’s because the government decided a year ago to enforce a rule against keeping langurs in captivity. “The result has been a rise in monkey-related complaints to the NDMC. That’s why we came up with such a plan,” said an official of the civic body.

“According to the wildlife act, captive langurs cannot be deployed for controlling the monkey menace. So we have hired men who can imitate the call of langurs. They impersonate, as far as possible, the real langurs,” Mishra said.

Any specific qualification needed to join the force? Just the gift of mimicry. It’s not clear if these men will dress up as langurs but an NDMC official said they would certainly paint their faces black.

“It is working out well and though it’s only a temporary measure, the number of (monkey menace) complaints are coming down. These men have been langur handlers traditionally, so they can do their task well and have been hired on a contractual basis,” Mishra said.

In the absence of corroboration from the other side, an independent assessment of Mishra’s claim was not immediately possible.

Monkeys have been regulars at Delhi’s government buildings for a long time. “They keep frequenting even the North and South blocks, which house important ministries such as defence, home, finance and the Prime Minister’s Office, as well as official residences of high-profile politicians in adjoining localities. There have even been incidents when they have attacked officials and destroyed files,” said another NDMC official.

Now it’s time for comeuppance. Did anyone say whoop!