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Monkey crackdown no funny business for city

  • Story Highlights
  • New Delhi says it has rounded up 600 monkeys in recent months
  • Government is cracking down on thousands of roaming monkeys
  • Roundup begins after deputy mayor reportedly died while fending off monkeys
  • Leading primate expert calls the plan "stupid"
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By Cal Perry
CNN
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NEW DELHI, India (CNN) -- Monkey handler Ramal Lala strolls along New Delhi's streets, a leash on his monkey named Mungle. The local government has hired the two to chase down thousands of smaller monkeys known to roam this mega-city of 13 million people, hopping on just about anything, breaking into houses and occasionally biting spectators.

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Monkeys such as these hang out on New Delhi's street corners. The city's government is trying to round them up.

On this day, Lala bangs a large stick, yells at the monkeys and lets his partner off his leash. Mungle, a Langor monkey, jumps into the trees and hisses at his smaller monkey kin. Every once and a while, Lala whips out a slingshot and fires at the little menaces.

"They steal clothes, snatch food from inside the houses. They raid the houses in large numbers," he says. "Sometimes, the brave ones even bite."

Lala and Mungle are essentially the monkey police of New Delhi. The government wants men such as Lala to round up the wild monkeys and move them to the Bhati reserve on the edge of India's capital city. Video Watch "monkeys gone wild" »

Authorities have tried to prevent the animals from freely roaming the city for decades. But they've met resistance. The monkeys -- known as "hanuman" -- are revered in India and not everyone wants to see them go.

The latest roundup began after the city's deputy mayor fell and died. His son said he was fending off monkeys at the time -- although speculation in the streets doubts whether that was the case.

The New Delhi government says it has rounded up 600 monkeys in recent months and moved them to the reserve. Some estimates put the number of monkeys roaming the city as high as 10,000.

The whole thing has scientists such as Iqbal Maliq, the leading expert on primates in India, furious. She says she believes the roundup is a joke.

"It's a stupid plan," she says. "It is a ridiculous plan that is making the entire country look ridiculous in the eyes of the scientists of the world."

She questions putting the Langor monkey on a leash to intimidate the smaller ones. And the idea of brandishing a slingshot against a monkey is just too much to bear. "Stupid," she says.

Half-joking, she adds, "I say give the monkeys the power."

It's a controversy that's not about to go away. Monkeys can be seen throughout the city. They run across the top of the Indian Parliament, swarm across streets, slide down telephone poles and sit on the side of the road staring at bystanders. Sometimes they heckle tourists, snatching lunch as people look away.

The city is filled with tales of people having to beat off a crazed monkey with a broom on their porch.

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At the reserve where the monkeys are taken, a green fence separates them from the city. They climb the fence and walk along it, keeping a keen eye on everything.

When they get bored, they just hop over and head back into the city, back home. E-mail to a friend E-mail to a friend

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