Alpha Romeo | india | Hindustan Times
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Alpha Romeo

india Updated: Jun 13, 2007 00:30 IST
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Romeo has a graceful gait. He is well-groomed but his handsome features are marred by a deformity — one of his ears is half-eaten, the result of a turf battle with a rival.

Romeo is a member of the genus Semnopithecus, sub-family Colobinae, family Cercopithecidae — commonly known as the grey langur. But unlike other members of this group, Romeo does not have to forage for food. His caretaker takes good care of him.

Romeo is one of the langurs hired by the University of Delhi administration. The main university campus is located next to the Kamla Nehru ridge, which is home to large numbers of Rhesus Macaque or the ordinary monkey. They are bold enough to march into the university campus, lounge around the buildings, jump on parked cars and break their windows. Once they entered the library of the Department of Physics, took out several volumes of The Astrophysical Journal, tore its pages and threw them out of the window.

When a faculty member tried to shoo them away, one of them attacked him and almost bit off his ear.

After this incident, the university authorities decided to hire langurs to end the menace. A tender was duly floated by the university administration; the estimated cost of the work was Rs 199,980 and the time given for completing the project was six months. Bids were received and the contract was awarded to Romeo’s owner.

Now Romeo and five of his co-workers have a room inside the university. They stay there with their keepers, also hired by the contractor. Every day in the morning after a hearty repast of fruits and vegetables, Romeo and his friends are taken around the campus. They strut around the university, climb buildings, move around the corridors and parking lots. It is said that the scent of the langur is enough to scare their Rhesus cousins.

Legend has it that langurs have black face and hands because they were burnt while trying to rescue Sita from Ravana in Lanka.

For us at the university, Romeo and his friends are performing a similar task of rescuing us from their dangerous cousins, the Rhesus Macaques.