They ape to scare

They ape to scare

A troop of marauding monkeys suddenly stops tearing up a New Delhi garden as one of the Indian capital's sought-after "monkey men" swings into action.

With a series of simian-like screeches and hoots, Mr Mahendra Goswami sends the troop fleeing, as he works to keep the pesky primates from leafy central Delhi's government buildings and plush residences.

The government has hired 40 such "monkey wallahs", an Indian term that roughly translates as monkey men, who mimic the aggressive langur, the natural enemy of the smaller rhesus macaques, who are wreaking havoc in the city.

"A loud 'ah, ah, ah' is our first call, warning monkeys about an aggressive langur's approach," Mr Goswami, 26, told AFP.

He follows it up with an equally shrill "uh, uh, uh," mimicking the sound of a frightened retreating monkey.

He said: "Finally we make a loud 'uah, uah' - an attack call - and mix it with the first two sounds, which ultimately make monkey groups nervously scamper for cover."

Though revered in the majority Hindu nation, monkeys are a major menace, often trashing gardens, office and residential rooftops and even viciously attacking people for food.


Concern about the monkey menace was raised in the Indian parliament last week when politicians were told that the 40 monkey men were working to keep the animals at bay.

For decades, the city's streets were patrolled by wallahs with their trained langurs. But the practice ended last year after a court ruled keeping the monkeys in captivity was cruel.

Mr Goswami and his colleagues, who are in high demand particularly in Delhi's plush quarters, also use slingshots and sticks to ward off the animals.

Recently, locals erected a plastic langur with a tape machine inside that played recorded sounds of the animals in a bid to scare the macaques away.

Mr Goswami said: "It took a group of monkeys three days to realise it was a dummy and then they raided it like a wolf pack."

The New Delhi Municipal Corporation (NDMC), the body tasked with providing essential services, said the men were "very talented" and had been trained to "closely copy" the noises and actions of the langurs to scare away the smaller rhesus macaques.

"They often wear a mask on their faces, hide behind the trees and make these noises to scare away the simians," NDMC chairman Jalaj Srivastava said.

This article was first published on Aug 9, 2014.
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