Delhi’s monkey menace is set to get worse with city municipal corporations unable to find catchers even at high rates and pressure from animal lovers allegedly torpedoing plans to check the Capital’s simian population.
The South Delhi Municipal Corporation has decided to approach the Delhi high court, asking that the responsibility of catching and relocating monkeys be shifted to the city government’s wildlife department.
If the decision favours the civic body, North and East Delhi Municipal Corporations are also likely to move the court.
Delhi reports at least five daily cases of monkey bites that can cause Rabies and be fatal. The animals are known to steal food from people’s houses and attack them. The mounting problem forced a parliamentary panel to seek expert advice in April.
In 2007, then deputy mayor SS Bajwa fell from his terrace and died when attacked by a group of monkeys, triggering outrage.
The same year, the high court gave the responsibility of catching monkeys to the civic bodies -- despite no such provision in the law -- because the municipalities already had a system for catching and sterilizing canines, officials say.
But the civic bodies are hamstrung by a scarcity of monkey catchers in the past two years despite multiple attempts to procure their services.
“We recently increased the per-monkey catching rate from Rs 800 to Rs 1200 to attract the monkey catchers. However that too has failed to attract private monkey catchers,” said a municipal official.
The problem has spiraled out of control in recent years. A paper tabled by minister of state for home Haribhai Parthibhai Chaudhary in the Lok Sabha said the three corporations relocated 408 monkeys last year. In contrast, more than 1,900 cases of monkey bites were reported during the same period.
Officials say that animal lovers are adding to the problem by filing police complaints against corporations and monkey catchers when the simians are caught in ones and twos, not troops.
“This is a major reason why monkey catchers don’t want to work in Delhi,” said an official.
An absence of a monkey census is also a problem. Municipal data say the city wildlife department estimated the monkey population to be 5,000 in 2007. But the corporation has now been trifurcated and simian numbers under each body remain unknown.
“Our officials are not trained to catch monkeys, neither do we have a distinctive job category to catch them, yet we have been tasked to do so,” said Farhad Suri, leader of opposition, SDMC.
Monkeys are protected under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Corporations argue that as monkeys are looked after by the wildlife department after they’re relocated at the Asola Bhatti Mines Sanctuary, the responsibility of catching should be handed over to the department.
But animal rights groups say the increasing monkey attacks are because of repeated encroachments into their habitat and the bites are a result of unscientific capturing and relocation of the primates.
Animal rights activist Kartick Satyanarayan said capturing a single monkey is like abducting them.
“From jumping and swinging from trees, the monkeys are left to swing from wires and cables. Their natural habitat has been destroyed fully. Also the capturing makes them furious,” he said.