Alfaaz grips the rogue monkey and (right) rogue relishes a banana in the cage.(PHOTOS: MOHAMMAD ALI)
Alfaaz grips the rogue monkey and (right) rogue relishes a banana in the cage.(PHOTOS: MOHAMMAD ALI)

Wildbuzz: The monkey trap

It’s not easy to win the trust of monkeys that are tamed or raised in captivity and go rogue after escape or abandonment
Hindustan Times, Chandigarh | By Vikram Jit Singh
PUBLISHED ON SEP 05, 2020 11:23 PM IST

Monkeys tamed and kept in cruel captivity can turn ‘rogues’ on escape or abandonment. A notorious male was nabbed on Wednesday from Panchkula’s Sector 26 after the ‘Goonda Bandar’ had bitten dozens of kids and women. The street goonda specialised in ambushing from the rear and had even delivered nasty nips to women joggers. As the terror mounted, complaints reached the CM window and the administration swung into a frenzied response. But capturing this bandar was no easy task as it preferred not to join monkey troupes because it was habituated to human presence. It preferred a loner’s tempestuous life, giving violent vent to inner fears and anxieties rooted in the miseries of captivity. To compound the residents’ miseries, the rogue managed to stage great escapes on every attempt by the authorities to capture it, including an instance when it was caught but managed to slip away by biting through the rope tethering it!

Having escaped, the rogue turned all the more suspicious and cunning. The Haryana forest department again tried its luck by putting cages, traps and nets primed with bananas. But the wily rogue steered well clear. The rapid task force (RTF) of the municipal corporation was pressed into action, given the fact that its members had captured an estimated 700 monkeys in 2.5 years. Significantly, RTF monkey catchers astutely understand the peculiarities of primate psyche as manifest in the context of urban human-animal conflict.

“Monkeys that have been released from captivity cannot adjust to their freedom. They turn suspicious of humans and harbour acute and bad memories of captivity where they were badly treated and beaten. On being freed, they bite humans out of fear and spite,’’ RTF member Alfaaz told this writer while drawing on his experience of 12 years.

“We did not threaten this monkey by brandishing sticks and cages. We offered bananas and made comforting sounds that monkeys typically respond to. We won the monkey’s confidence and it started to follow us and obey our commands. We had to get the monkey close to us and grab it as it would not fall for a cage/trap/net. However, one of our team members, Ravinder, who drives our rescue vehicle, was not liked by the bandar. The bandar was cheesed off by Ravinder’s presence and tried to bite him repeatedly,” said Mohammad Ali, a RTF member.

The bandar took refuge in a grilled enclave of potted plants outside a house. “So, we got Ravinder to go next to the grill. Enraged, the monkey stretched out an arm and tried to grab Ravinder. Alfaaz moved like lightning and caught the monkey’s arm extended from behind the grill. I rushed from the other side and caught the monkey’s right arm,’’ said Ali.

Alfaaz knew a monkey’s arms rotate and can be pinned back like those of a human. All that was needed to complete the classic picture of a rogue accosted after a gruelling chase was for ‘Sheriff Alfaaz’ to have clamped handcuffs on the wrists! The monkey was speedily transferred to a cage and given more bananas, which it relished with an air of nonchalance. The rogue was later rehabilitated in the jungle by the forest department.

Tailpiece: A capture of a femme fatale a few years back also from Sector 26 bears recollection because it is supposed to have indulged in a despicable colourism, a trait more worthy of allegedly superior human races! Having been kept in captivity, the female escaped. ‘’She took to biting women and that, too, only dusky women, while striking friendships with and accepting food from fair-skinned women. She was afraid of men and would not bite them. The affected people told us that this female monkey had been kept by a fair-skinned woman shopkeeper from Himachal Pradesh and was more trusting of people with lighter skin colour while reacting aggressively to darker counterparts,’’ recalled Alfaaz.

Having gauged the bewitching bandari’s psyche accurately, Alfaaz got Sameer, a dark-skinned colleague, to dress up in a lady’s suit and rouse the monkey. Sure enough, the bandari attacked Sameer. The ‘lady’ shed her garb, pounced and promptly caught the rogue by the scruff of its neck. The scores had been settled!

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